There's nothing quite like a fresh scallop. Delicately textured and a sweet buttery taste, that when properly cooked, melts in your mouth. Like oysters, scallops are the sexy bivalve mollusk that have aphrodisiac attributes, they are the queen of the ocean.As a child, I mostly ate scallops 2 ways. Breaded and fried, or overcooked in some sort of Ritz cracker based stuffing. It wasn't until culinary school until I was given the opportunity to do the scallop justice in the kitchen. I remember biting into my first real scallop that was seared in brown butter with fresh sage. The almost crisp outside that cuts into the soft, almost sweet interior. They quickly became one of my favorite seafoods.
You will usually always find scallops shucked. Look for Dry packed or Diver Caught options, as they are usually better quality, but with a higher price per pound. Each scallop should be whole, without looking shredded, as that is a sign up being mishandled. Look for plump, juicy scallops that are more on the dry side. Fresh scallops should have a clean, fresh smell to them and not be "fishy".
Atlantic dredged or diver caught scallops are the most sustainable options. Although scallops are not on the verge of being overfished, their numbers are down, so sticking with sustainable sources is best to make sure we can enjoy these delicious treats from the ocean for years to come. Keep up to date with the best seafood options here on SeafoodWatch.org.
How to Cook
Before preparing, give the scallops a quick rinse, then pat dry with a towel. Scallops take just a few minutes to prepare, so plan out your meal accordingly before getting them into the pan to cook.
Scallops turn rubbery if overcooked, so it is important to keep a close eye on them while they cook. My favorite way to prepare scallops is to simply pan sear them. Heat up a skillet (preferably cast iron), with a little lard and butter. Season the scallops with sea salt and black pepper then place into the pan. While the scallops cook on one side, continuously spoon the hot fat over the top of the scallops and essentially baste them as they sear. After about a minute and a half, flip the scallops and turn off the heat. Let them continue to cook for another minute before moving onto the plate.
Sliced thin, scallops are perfect raw to marinate in bold flavors. Citrus fruits, a variety of spices, chili's, and umami rich Nama shoyu are perfect complements to this sashimi style preparation. The photo on the top of this post shows scallop sashimi with shaved shallots, hemp hearts and a spicy lime-ginger marinade.
Bay scallops are the smallest retail scallop and work well in stuffings, soups, and seafood stews. Again, add them towards the end of the cooking time to keep from becoming too "bouncy".
Recipe: Scallop Sashimi
This dish is inspired by my favorite sushi restaurant in the states, Miya's in New Haven, CT. Chef Bun Lai serves up an incredible sashimi of fresh fish in a pool of spices, citrus, and ginger. Garnished with hemp hearts, this dish is just divine.
Take about 4-6 ounces of scallops and slice to form thin "coins". Lay them flat directly onto 2 plates.
Whisk together the juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbsp Nama shoyu, 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, and 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger. Add a few pinches each of paprika, cumin, coriander seed, black pepper and as much fresh or dried chili as you can handle. Pour the mixture over the plates so that the scallops are drenched in the dressing. use some tongs to flip the scallops over and to incorporate the marinade. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.
Scallops pair up nicely with wide variety of ingredients as well as cuisines.
Here's a short list of some of scallops favorite ingredients:
- brown butter
- fresh herbs and spices
- sweet and spicy peppers
- black truffles
What's best about scallops… Kids love them!