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Taco Tuesday takes on new meaning in the hands of chef Ronald Dutes. “I wanted a unique way to allow the Stonington scallops to shine,” says Dutes, co-owner of Fatboy’s Kitchen and Bar in New London. “I regularly use a lot of the components for this dish such as pico de gallo and chipotle crema, so a taco seemed like the perfect vessel to serve these lightly battered, succulent Stonington scallops.”

Fresh local seafood is only one type of ingredient that inspires Dutes. “I don’t like to be pigeonholed into cuisine from one specific region, so my menu is New American comfort food which allows me to pull from flavors from around the world,” Dutes says. “I also enjoy working with Latin American flavors. When I was a child growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I would regularly stop at a small vendor that sold only elotes — Mexican street corn — and tamales. I would look forward to that moment after school on the way home when I could get an elote. It was interesting, unique and delicious and I was enamored.”

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Ronald Dutes, chef and co-owner of Fatboy’s Kitchen and Bar in New London

Dutes’ first job was at age 16 at a Carvel. “I immediately took to it and I learned how to decorate all the cakes and I was eventually put in charge of making special-order cakes,” Dutes says. “The special-order cakes allowed me to flex my creativity and to experience the customer appreciation when they picked up their orders.” This prompted him to enroll in a two-year culinary arts program offered by his high school.

After learning the basics, Dutes embarked on a journey into the food industry and never looked back. He attended Johnson & Wales University and worked at numerous well-known establishments including Grand Lux Cafe and Blue Water Grill, both in New York, and David Burke Prime Steakhouse at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Dutes opened Fatboy’s Kitchen and Bar in 2016.

Observing the talents of other professional chefs keeps Dutes on the leading edge. “I do enjoy Bobby Flay’s style of cooking. I would regularly eat at Mesa Grill on Fifth Avenue in New York City when it was open in order to gain some inspiration and see what he was doing,” says Dutes, who likes to have fun in the kitchen. “I tend to follow trends and what’s popular at the time and put a little fun, flavorful twist on it. Currently, burgers have regained popularity; so one of the awesome burgers we serve is a McLovin Burger, which is served with American cheese, smoked cherry barbecue mayo, and crispy shallots.”

Experimenting with and inventing new dishes is where Dutes finds his enjoyment. “That’s the best part of my job — and, of course, the guest reaction when they love something unique that they’ve tried.”

Crispy scallop tacos

Chef’s tip: Dutes suggests asking your local seafood vendor for scallop pieces, which are often less expensive than whole scallops and just as fresh and delicious.

Yield: 2 tacos

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 6 ounces Stonington scallop (or other scallop) pieces
  • 4 ounces beer batter (see recipe)
  • 3 ounces pico de gallo (see recipe)
  • 3 ounces chipotle crema (see recipe)
  • 4 ounces shredded romaine lettuce
  • Tortilla chips

Directions

In a bowl, coat the scallop pieces in beer batter. In lieu of a fryer, fill a pan with about two inches of oil (canola is best), or enough to submerge the scallop pieces. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees and drop in the scallops. Be sure to scatter the pieces as you drop them in the oil so they don’t clump together. Fry the scallop pieces for about 1½ minutes until light brown.

While the scallops cook, warm up the tortillas in a dry sauté pan on high heat for 20 seconds, turning after 10 seconds so each side is warmed. Or you can put them in the oven for a minute.

Fill each warm tortilla with half of the romaine lettuce and split the scallop pieces equally among the tortillas. Sprinkle pico de gallo evenly over the tacos and drizzle some of the chipotle crema over the top. To serve, pull the sides up of the tortilla to look like a taco shell and lean against a handful of tortilla chips.

Beer batter

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces Samuel Adams Summer Ale, or a lager
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk ingredients together until there are no visible clumps. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pico de gallo

Ingredients

  • 5 plum tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice tomatoes and red onion a quarter-inch thick. Slice jalapeños in half and remove the seeds. Put tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños through a dicer. Add lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper; mix well.

Chipotle crema

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ small can of chipotle peppers in adobo purée

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together. You only need a drizzle for the tacos, leaving crema for future use.


This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. Did you like what you read? You can subscribe here.