Candy from the Sea – Perfectly Cooked Scallops, Every Time

By 6 m read

Finished. Yes, it’s absolutely delicious (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Let’s face it, sometimes we’d like to impress our friends with a fancy meal, but we’re also intimidated about the potential outcome. Spending good money on a star ingredient and then having a mediocre result just doesn’t cut it.

 

So we cave in and go back to cooking one of our old trusty meals with known results, right? Wrong. Think sea scallops. They’re fancy, tasty, and incredibly easy to cook perfectly every time. If you’ve ever had tough or chewy scallops in a restaurant, that’s a shame. There’s absolutely no reason scallops shouldn’t be perfectly cooked every time.

 

Scallop is a common name that’s used for numerous species of saltwater clams. These species are the only bivalve mollusk that’s free-swimming. If you’ve never seen a scallop swimming by, clapping its shell, you must watch this video:

 

 

When you go to a fishmonger in Europe, you’ll often see the scallops sold together with the orange egg sac still attached to the white muscle. This is not everybody’s idea of a delicacy, but believe me, the combination of the nutty, buttery muscle combined with salty, crunchy eggs is something special.

 

Around here, scallops are normally sold fresh and cleaned. The most widely available types are bay scallops (the smaller ones) and sea scallops (the larger ones we’re talking about here). If you find frozen ones, that’s okay too, as long as you take the time to slowly defrost them and let them come up to room temperature before cooking.

Ingredients for seared sea scallops (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Ingredients for seared sea scallops (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Ingredients

  • 10 sea scallops
  • 1 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • A few slivers of habanero
  • A few cilantro leaves
  • Salt & pepper

 

Let’s start with some basic but very important steps to consider for the perfectly cooked scallop. Take your scallops out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before cooking. Smell them…they shouldn’t, maybe just a hint of the sea. Rinse them under cold water and then dry completely with a paper towel. Feel your way around the outside. Sometimes you’ll find a little tough piece (it’s a side muscle) still attached to the meat. You can just pull that off with your fingers. Now that the scallops are ready and at room temperature, it’s time to season them.

 

Less is more with seasoning scallops. This sweet, buttery, and nutty candy from the sea only needs a little bit of salt and some freshly cracked pepper. I actually mix the salt and pepper with a little bit of flour, and then quickly roll the scallops in this mixture…shake off the excess, you just want a light dusting.

Lightly-floured seasoned scallops (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Lightly-floured seasoned scallops (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Now comes the cooking. For scallops, I recommend using a non-stick frying pan. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high to high. The butter is for flavor and the oil keeps the butter from burning up too quickly. Once your pan gets hot, add the scallops. You should hear a nice sizzle when they touch the pan’s surface.

Scallops happily sizzling in butter and oil (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Scallops happily sizzling in butter and oil (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Make sure they’re not touching each other in the pan. Scallops are mostly water and we want some of that water to steam away quickly. Please don’t move them while sizzling. Let them develop a nice, brown crust (the inside will stay tender and creamy), which should take about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Then you can turn them and cook for another minute. Do not overcook them! The scallops will keep firming up after you take them out of the pan.

 

Plate your scallops on a pre-heated dish, drizzle some of the pan juices over them, add a few cilantro leaves (if you have some handy; I also like chives), and add a few slivers of habanero for a little kick…it’s like adding wasabi to your sashimi.  

 

To complete this wonderful and simple dish, I like to open a bottle of Vouvray, a French white wine from the Loire Valley. It has notes of citrus, but also minerals and other earthy flavors, which pairs perfectly with the nutty and buttery scallops.

 

In summary, impress your friends by working in the kitchen, right in front of them, for 5 minutes, while discussing what went wrong with this year’s Flyers season.

 

Fun facts about scallops:

  • Scallops have about 60 eyes that line its mantle.  These eyes may be a brilliant blue color and allow the scallop to detect light, dark, and motion.
  • October 2nd is National Fried Scallop Day.
  • Atlantic sea scallops can grow very large shells – up to 9″ in length.  
  • Unlike mussels and the oysters, the scallops cannot close and seal its shell completely and so can only survive in the deeper sea water; they can’t tolerate brackish or fresh water.
  • Marco Polo recorded in 1280 that scallops were sold in the market in Hangchow, China.
  • Each ring on a scallop shell represents a year of growth.
  • The scallop shell is also the logo of a well-known oil company.
Finished. Yes, it’s absolutely delicious (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
Finished. Yes, it’s absolutely delicious (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

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Finished. Yes, it’s absolutely delicious (Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Candy from the Sea - Perfectly Cooked Scallops, Every Time

Think sea scallops. They're fancy, tasty, and incredibly easy to cook perfectly every time. 
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 10 sea scallops
  • 1 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • Few slivers of habanero
  • Few cilantro leaves
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions
 

  • Take scallops out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before cooking.  Rinse under cold water and then dry completely with a paper towel.
  • Mix salt and pepper with a little bit of flour, then quickly roll the scallops in this mixture...shake off the excess, you just want a light dusting. 
  • Heat butter and olive oil over medium-high to high in a non-stick frying pan.
  • Once the pan gets hot, add the scallops.   You should hear a nice sizzle when they touch the pan’s surface.  Make sure they’re not touching each other in the pan & don’t move them while sizzling.
  • Let them develop a nice, brown crust (the inside will stay tender and creamy), which should take about 1-½ to 2 minutes. Then you can turn them and cook for another minute. Do not overcook them!  
  • Plate your scallops on a pre-heated dish, drizzle some of the pan juices over them, add a few cilantro leaves (if you have some handy; I also like chives), and add a few slivers of habanero for a little kick...it’s like adding wasabi to your sashimi.  

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