Seared Scallops. Mmmmm….let me just drift off for a bit thinking about Seared Scallops for a moment. I love them so much that they undoubtedly rank on the top of my favorite foods list, in a constant battle for the top spot with Chilean Seabass, steamed Crab legs and that incredible bowl of Mussels I had in France…the one with the garlicky broth and the crusty French Bread for dipping. Looking at my tops list, I guess I’m a huge seafood fan now that I really think about it!
Growing up in Clear Lake City (a suburb of Houston, TX), fresh Gulf of Mexico seafood was a staple. That probably explains why I love seafood so much. Along with the freshly caught shrimp we would always have (yes, I would toss out a shrimp net and bring in dinner), I remember fancying Scallops as a kid. Those, unfortunately, you had to buy at the store.
That was a less complicated time in the food business, when the grocery store would only carry one variety of scallops…the bay scallops. Those are the small ones that you see; they’re about the size of a mini marshmallow. They’re super good and a lot less expensive. But, don’t get me wrong, until you’ve had a Sea Scallop—the BIG ones that are just a touch wider than a large marshmallow—you haven’t experienced Scallop nirvana!
I remember the first time I really had Sea Scallops done well. I was waiting tables at the time at a restaurant called Posto in Sherman Oaks. The restaurant and its sister restaurant, Valentino, is renowned for its great food and extensive wine list. At the time I was there, James Beard Award-winning chef Luciano Pellegrini was doing a stint in the kitchen, refreshing the menu and launching some new and exciting dishes.
I remember the Seared Scallops like it was just yesterday. They were perfectly caramelized and as golden brown as you can get them. They were served in an amazing broth with pea shoots and served over a bed of mashed potatoes. Heaven!
There is something about a little freshness and a little starch that pairs so well with Scallops. In this recipe, the lemon zest and parsley really adds a nice touch, balancing out the richness of the butter we add at the end. Serving it over a bed of pasta, and you’ve got a substantial meal that really highlights the delicate nature of the Scallops.
Scallops can be tricky. Like a lot of seafood, especially shrimp and shellfish, people have a tendency to overcook it. As a general rule of thumb, if you keep seafood in the pan until it is “done,” by the time you plate it up and put it on the table, you and your fork will be in a battle with rubbery and overcooked seafood.
Well-cooked seafood is not tough and rubbery. Only overcooked seafood is. Seafood is so delicate that you have to take it off the heat before it is “officially” done. It will continue to cook. After a couple of times of taking it off the heat a little sooner than usual, you will soon master making perfectly cooked seafood. It will be so tender and juicy that your fork will easily glide right through it and you will wonder how you ever ate overcooked seafood.
I mentioned the easy days of buying scallops…those days when you could only get one variety. Thankfully, we are no longer in the easy days because there are more varieties available than ever before. We now have different sizes available and you can readily find the larger, most tender and flavorful Sea Scallops in your local grocery store.
With that, however, there are things you must look out for. When buying scallops, there are ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ scallops. If they don’t tell you which or have no clue, assume they are ‘wet’ scallops and keep on walking.
You see, the ‘wet’ scallops, as they’re called, are treated with a combination of water and sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP), also known as sodium triphosphate (STP). STPP does a couple of things. It extends the shelf-life of the scallop, but it also causes the scallop to retain more of the added water, so they are heavier. And for something that is sold by the pound, although the price of ‘wet’ scallops are less, you are paying for unnecessary and undesired added water weight. In the end, it’s not a savings.
Aside from the obvious—not wanting an additive in your food—the added water is undesirable because it will prevent you from getting a beautiful golden-brown sear on your scallops…and that is key in this dish. If you’ve made scallops before and couldn’t get the desired sear, you were probably working with ‘wet’ scallops.
So, although they are generally more expensive, get the ‘dry’ scallops. In my mind, it’s a non-negotiable.
Scallops, like other seafood and meat, can be expensive. But they are worth it, especially if you’re making a nice dinner for yourself or your special someone. They are perfect for date night, too, because you can pre-cook the pasta (yes, a minute less than package directions) and prepare all the ingredients so that all you have to do is season the scallops and cook them up add the pasta back in at the end. Literally, if you’ve prepped everything, you can whip this amazing meal up in about 10 minutes…which means you’re not stuck in the kitchen during date night. You’ll make it look like a breeze and you’ll have plenty of time for an extra episode of Game of Thrones!
I really can’t wait for you to try this recipe…it’s one of my favorites. And if you have any tips on great places to find the ‘dry’ scallops in your area, let us know! Have a great date night!
Pan-Seared Scallops over Pasta in a Lemon-White Wine Sauce
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
Prepare the Pasta
- Cook pasta for 1 minute less than package directions.
- Zest Lemon and set aside. Juice the same Lemon and set aside.
- Press Garlic and mince Parsley and set aside.
- Rinse and thoroughly pat dry the Scallops with a Paper Towel. Season both sides of the Scallop with Salt and Pepper.
Cook it Up
- In a frying pan over medium-high heat, add some Olive Oil. Place Scallops carefully in the Olive Oil.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottom half of the Scallop turns opaque and the bottom is a beautiful golden-brown from the sear. Turn Scallops over and cook for about one minute more. Remove Scallops from pan and place on a plate. (Note: Do NOT overcook the Scallops. They will continue to cook through when you take them off the heat.)
- Turn down the heat to medium and in the same pan, add the White Wine to deglaze the pan.
- Add the Garlic and Lemon Juice. Cook until the Sauce reduces by about half.
- Add Parsley and Butter.
- 10. Add Pasta to the pan to thoroughly coat Pasta in the Sauce.
- 11. Plate it up! Arrange Scallops on top of a bed of pasta, drizzle with remaining sauce and garnish with Lemon Zest and more Parsley.