At the Green Table: Pan-Seared Scallops

Pan-Seared Scallops

Pan-Seared Scallops

 

Scallops are a mild, sweet-flavored seafood that are extremely easy to prepare.  You just add them to a hot steel or cast-iron pan or a griddle (a la plancha) and they are finished in a few minutes.  You can also cook them in wine, bake them in the oven, steam or grill them just as easily.  

 

The thing that makes them so versatile is that you can combine scallops with virtually any vegetable or fruit.  Add your favorite sauce, pasta, a salad, vinaigrette, or perhaps a warm vinaigrette, and you have an incredibly delicious starter or main course.  I have included several recipes as examples.  Use them as a starting point, but substitute your own ideas and enjoy.  (all recipes can also be found separately in our RECIPES section)

 


pan-seared scallops, master recipe

pan-seared scallops, master recipe

    

Pan-Seared Scallops, Master Recipe

Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

12 large sea scallops, preferably 

dry-packed

Clarified butter, extra-virgin olive oil or a mixture of the two

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

It is important to use the best scallops you can find.  They are usually listed as fresh, dry-packed, wild scallops.  

 

METHOD

These scallops are a bit more expensive, but will be fresher, have better flavor and cook better.  Most scallops available in this country are previously frozen and packed in a liquid to help with preservation, plumpness and to keep them looking white.  These scallop, while not as good as the dry-packed ones, are still quite nice if prepared and cooked properly.  They should be drained, rinsed and thoroughly dried before cooking.  Any moisture left in the scallop will steam the scallop rather than allowing it to sear properly.

 

When you sauté the scallops it is important that the pan be very hot.  You can use a nonstick, a steel or cast-iron sauté pan.  The steel or cast-iron pan will generally give you better caramelization, but a nonstick pan may easier to use, especially if this is your first time cooking scallops. 

 

Heat a a tablespoon or two of clarified butter, olive oil, or a mixture of the two over high heat.  If the heat is too low, the scallops will not caramelize properly. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, to taste and when you see the pan just starting to smoke, add the scallops, flat side down.  Don’t over crowd the pan or the scallops will steam rather than searing properly.  

 

The exact timing for scallops will vary with the size and condition of the scallops, as well as the pan you are using and its actual temperature. It will take about 2 to 4 minutes per side. (If you have never cooked scallops before, it may be a good idea to experiment with a few to work out the best timing for you.) After about 2 minutes you should take a peak at the bottom of the scallops and if they have a nice sear with a golden brown color, it is time to turn them over.  It is important to avoid touching or moving the scallop before that time. You should cook them for about 1 to 2 minutes on the second flat side, again without moving them.  It is also important to avoid over cooking a scallop or it will be come firm and a bit rubbery.  I remove them from the pan when both sides have a good sear, generally 2 minutes on the first side and 1 to 2 minutes on the second.  At that point the scallops are still springy and the center is a bit translucent.  The residual heat in the scallops will continue to cook them after you remove them from the pan. 

 

I have included several recipes, but from this point on it is really up to your imagination and taste.  Experiment with your favorite fruits, vegetables, salads, sauces or vinaigrettes, and enjoy.  

 


scallops with pea puree & potato galette

scallops with pea puree & potato galette

Scallops with Pea Puree & Potato Galette

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops, 

10 oz package of frozen peas, thawed  

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin rounds with a mandoline or sharp knife

Unsalted butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

Combine the peas and chicken stock in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Set aside.  If you prefer a thin puree, you can strain it.

 

Brush a large nonstick sauté or fry pan with olive oil. Arrange 8 potato slices in a circle, overlapping slightly, in the pan.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the galette is a golden brown on the bottom, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Using a wide spatula, turn the galette over and adjust the potatoes, if necessary, to re-form a circle.  Cook until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on bottom, again about 3 or 4 minutes.  Transfer to a large baking sheet and keep warm in a 200ºF oven.  Repeat the process with the remaining potatoes.

 

Prepare the scallops according to the master recipe for pan-seared scallops above. Arrange the galettes on plates, top with 2 or 3 scallops and drizzle pea puree around the galette.


scallops with pea puree, oil oil-poached tomatoes & saba

scallops with pea puree, oil oil-poached tomatoes & saba

 

Scallops with Pea Puree, Olive Oil-Poached Tomatoes and Saba

Serves 4 to 6 

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops

12 olive-oil poached tomatoes, you can substitute oven-roasted tomatoes, recipes below

10 oz package of frozen peas, thawed

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Saba, you can substitute balsamic vinegar or a purchased balsamic vinegar reduction or glaze. 

 

Method

The olive-oil poached tomatoes can be prepared up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 

To prepare the pea puree combine the peas and chicken stock in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Set aside.  

 

Prepare the scallops according to the master recipe for pan-seared scallops above. 

To serve, place the scallop on top of the olive-oil poached tomatoes, with some pea puree and a drizzle of Saba.

 

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

12 plum or similar tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cored and seeds removed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 garlic cloves, minced

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

 

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

 

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a sheet pan, cut side up.  Drizzle the tomatoes with some olive oil, about 4 tablespoons and the balsamic vinegar.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Roast the tomatoes until they are concentrated, but still retain their shape, and are starting to caramelize.  This should take about 25 to 30 minutes, but start checking around 15 minutes.  The tomatoes can be served warm or at room temperature.  



Scallops on Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Puree with an Apple-Fennel Salad

Scallops on Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Puree with an Apple-Fennel Salad

Scallops on Roasted Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Puree with an Apple-Fennel Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops 

1 medium size butternut squash, or similar squash, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed

4 medium size carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces

Fresh ginger, about 1” peeled and grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

Extra-virgin olive oil

Unsalted butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Method

Preheat the oven to 400ºF 


Brush the squash with olive oil and place cut side up on a baking skeet.  Add a small piece of butter to the cavity of the squash and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over the entire squash.   Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to caramelize on the top.  Baste the squash occasionally with the melted butter. Remove from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 350ºF. When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the flesh from the skin and reserve in a large mixing bowl. 


While the squash is roasting, steam or boil the carrots until they are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the carrots to the bowl with the squash.  Transfer the contents of the bowl to a food processor and puree. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if necessary.


Melt a tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan, add the minced garlic and grated ginger and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.  Add the squash carrot puree, stir and mix in the garlic and ginger. Cook for several minutes to allow the flavors to combine.  Remove the puree and spread it into a buttered shallow baking dish.  Dot the puree with several small pieces of butter and bake for about 20 minutes or until hot.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. 


apple-fennel salad

apple-fennel salad

This recipe will make more than is necessary for the scallops, but it will keep for several days in the refrigerator and pairs well with a roast chicken, turkey or a roast loin of pork. 


Prepare the scallops according to the master recipe for pan-seared scallops above.


To serve, place about a tablespoon full of squash puree on a plate and top with a scallop.  


Add a salad, such as an apple fennel salad and drizzle some of the vinaigrette around the plate, or use what ever salad you prefer.


scallops_caviar.jpg


Scallops with Potato Cakes & Caviar Butter Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops 

Potato Cakes

2 medium russet or baking potatoes, peeled

1 small onion

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

Extra-virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Method

Coarsely grate the potatoes and onion in a food processor or box grater.  Transfer the mixture to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze as dry as possible.  Transfer to a bowl and mix with the egg, flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  


Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick fry or sauté pan over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer.  Add a tablespoon of the potato to the pan (or a bit more if you want larger pancakes) and flatten with a spoon.  Depending on the size of your pan, add several more pancakes to the pan and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes.  Turn the pancakes over and cook until the second side is golden, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel to drain. If the potato cakes are prepared in advance, transfer to a baking sheet and warm in a 350ºF oven for 1 to 2 minutes before serving.


This is a very basic recipe for potato pancakes or latkes, but if you have a favorite you can certainly substitute it here.


caviar_butter.jpg

Caviar Butter Sauce

Ingredients


3/4 lb unsalted butter, chilled

2 shallots, finely diced

1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fish stock

8 to 10 teaspoons black caviar of your choice


Method

Heat a tablespoon of the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook for several minutes until they become translucent and soft.  Do not let them brown.  Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated.  Add the wine and fish stock and reduce to about 3 tablespoons.  Cut the remaining butter (still chilled) into pieces and add it, one piece at a time, into the pan.  Stir or whisk the butter into the liquid until each piece is emulsified before adding the next piece.  Continue stirring constantly until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Add salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in 6 teaspoons of caviar. Keep warm.


Prepare the scallops according to the master recipe for pan-seared scallops above.


To serve, placed the cooked scallop on a potato cake and spoon the sauce around or over the scallop. Garnish with the remaining caviar.  Serve with a light salad such as Mâche with lemon juice and oil.


scallops_wilted_spinach.jpg

Scallops on Wilted Baby Spinach and Garlic, with Tomato & Fennel Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops

2 lemons, cut into wedges for serving


Wilted Baby Spinach with Garlic

Ingredients

1 pound of baby spinach

2 or 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Wash and drain the spinach, but do not dry.  Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy pan over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute Add the spinach and cook until it is wilted and turns a dark bright green, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add sea salt and pepper to taste


Tomato and Fennel Salad

Ingredients

1  1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes

1 large fennel bulb

1/2 cup of apple cider

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (adjust to taste)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bowl of ice water

Method

Clean the fennel bulb, remove the tops and  any rough outer edges. (Save some fennel fronds for a garnish if you wish.)  Slice the bulb in half and remove the core.  Slice the bulb crosswise with a sharp knife or a mandoline and cut the slices into 1/4 inch match sticks.  Place the fennel in the bowl of ice water for 30 minutes.


Add a pinch of salt and pepper to a bowl.  Add the apple cider vinegar to the bowl and whisk.  Then add the mustard and apple cider and whisk again.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil.  Taste the vinaigrette and adjust the ratio of oil and apple cider vinegar to your taste.  Adjust the salt and pepper, if necessary.


Core the tomatoes and cut into wedges.  Place the tomatoes in a mixing bowl.  Drain the fennel, dry and add to the same bowl.


Toss the apples and fennel with a small amount of the vinaigrette.  Slowly add more dressing until the tomatoes and fennel are coated to your taste. 


Prepare the scallops according to the master recipe for pan-seared scallops above.

To serve place some wilted baby spinach with garlic on a plate and top with 2 or three scallops and a light drizzle of lemon juice.  Serve with a tomato and fennel salad. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette on the plate   

tomato & fennel salad

tomato & fennel salad

You can also omit the salad and serve the scallops on top of the spinach with some, caviar, Saba, and a bit of pea puree.