They are luxurious, elegant, decadent and the most amazing jewels the sea yields. Their fan-like shaped shells are not only gorgeous to behold, but a grilled or well-prepared, pan seared scallop is a joy to behold. So luscious, rich and addicting that they are one of the most magnificent things to eat.
They come in two varieties – bay scallops and sea scallops. Easy to prepare, however, the only caution is not to overcook them as they will become rubbery and hard.
Bay are usually rather small, found in shallow waters along the East Coast, with their peak season in the fall. They usually come already shucked and typically a pound will yield about 90-100 scallops. Their flavor is sweet and their color varies from light pink to beige. Because of their small size, they are quite delicate, should be added at the last minute to any dish, as they cook very quickly – they are perfect for ceviche.
The sea scallop has its origins from the deep sea and they are three times the size in comparison – some as large as 2’ in diameter. Their taste is a bit chewier and more substantial than bay scallops, but still a sweet delicacy and the best cooking results are grilled or pan sautéed.
You’ll find the term diver scallop in many menus and these are typically costlier. As their name implies, divers have to forage the bottom of the sea to acquire them.
The key emphasis here is “cooking them properly” because most overcook this lovely bivalve mollusk and the results are a chewy and inedible. The perfect way to prepare swoon worthy, plump meaty scallops is to grill them or pan sear them, as they develop a perfect brown, crispy crust outside and are still be medium inside without them being raw.
Some grocery chains selling scallops are now labeling them “wet” or “dry”.
WET– Means they have been soaked in a phosphate solution, which makes the scallop absorb more water and gives them a funky flavor. When they cook they become a little shriveled and usually they are not as fresh. Never use these for a raw preparation.
DRY– These have not been chemically treated and their flavor is unadulterated. They are a bit darker beige in color, whereas wet scallops are pure white.
PAN SEARED SCALLOPS WITH HUMMUS AND SAFFRON INFUSED OIL
3 TBSP olive oil
A pinch of saffron strands
2 garlic cloves – unpeeled left whole
Pinch of ground cumin
1 ½ LBS of sea scallops – cleaned to remove any hairs and dried very thoroughly
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
½ TSP Kosher salt
¼ cup of tahini paste – (blended well to incorporate the oil on the top)
3 TBSP lemon juice
¼ TSP ground cumin
¼ cup of olive oil
2-3 TBSP chicken stock
Roma tomatoes – roasted
1 can of chick peas – drained and rinsed
In the bowl of a food processor add all the ingredients, excluding the olive oil and chicken stock. Pulse to create a blend all the ingredients. With the motor running add the olive oil to create a creamy paste. You want this hummus to be creamy, dreamy and not too thick. Add the chicken stock only if the hummus is too thick to thin it, otherwise omit.
Line a cookie sheet with a paper towels, place the scallops on top and place more paper towels on top, patting down gently to dry them as much as possible allowing them to come to room temperature. Salt and pepper them. Heat up about 2-3 TBSP of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat – allow the oil to heat up well. With some tongs place the scallops in the pan (don’t overcrowd them). Allow them to sear well for about 1 to 1½ minutes, without touching them before turning over, this way the scallops will obtain a nice crispy crust. Turnover and sear the other side for about 1 minute or so – making sure they don’t dry out – touch the center of the scallop with your finger. You want it to be firm to the touch but not overly firm, so they are tender inside.
Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. In the same pan where the oil has remained, add the whole garlic cloves, the saffron and a pinch of cumin. Allow the oil to become infused with the saffron/garlic flavor for about 1 minute, being careful the garlic cloves don’t burn. Remove the garlic before serving.
On each serving plate, place the seared scallops, some hummus on the middle and drizzle the saffron infused oil over them. Serve with wedges of lemon and the roasted tomatoes.
SEA SCALLOP TOSTADAS
1 LB of sea scallops – well dried
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP sweet paprika
½ TSP ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 avocadoes – pitted and skins removed
Juice of 1 lime
Mexican crema (or sour cream beaten sooth with 1 TBSP of lime juice) for garnish
PICO DE GALLO
1 large beefsteak tomato – ensure it’s ripe
1 jalapeño – seeds removed with a spoon and chopped finely
¼ red onion – chopped finely
1 cup of cilantro – finely chopped (same some for garnish)
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 TSP kosher salt
Dry the scallops as thoroughly as possible (same method as above recipe). In a small bowl mix the spices, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the scallops.
Mash the avocadoes with some lime juice, salt pepper and about ½ TSP cumin. Set aside.
Chop the ingredients for the pico de gallo. Place them in a bowl and add the lime juice. Set aside.
Heat up about 2-3 TBSP of olive oil in a large on-stick skillet over high heat – allow the oil to heat up well. With some tongs place the scallops in the pan (don’t overcrowd them). Allow them to sear well for about 1½ minutes, without touching them before turning over. This way the scallops will obtain a nice crispy crust. Turnover and sear the other side for about 1½ minutes – making sure they don’t dry – touch the center of the scallop with your finger – you want it to be firm to the touch but not overly firm, so they are tender inside.
Fry each corn tortillas in some safflower oil till crispy – about 1 minute per side and then set them on some paper towels.
Place the avocado on top of the tortilla and top with the pico. Add the seared scallops and finish with the Mexican crema and some chopped cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
BAY SCALLOP CEVICHE
This is perfect representation and use for the bay scallop. Ceviche is seafood or fish that has been marinated with a high acid content that actually almost cooks it, leaving the texture supple and tender. It can also be called crudo. The addition of the juice of citrus is what makes ceviche so spectacular. There is no reason why you have to use either lime or lemon. Try a combination of both, with some orange and even grapefruit juice, which will make your ceviche not only one of a kind, but something that will become a favorite of guests and family.
1 LB of bay scallops – washed and dried as much as possible with a towel
6-7 radishes – cut into slivers
2 scallions – green and white parts – finely sliced
½ red onion – halved and sliced very thinly
7 limes – juice squeezed and zest of one
Juice of 1 lemon with 1 TSP of zest
½ jalapeño – seeds removed with a spoon and chopped very small
¼ TSP smoked Spanish sweet paprika
¼ TSP chipotle powder
Pinch of sugar
2 TBSP of fresh squeezed orange juice and 1 TSP of orange zest
In a medium bowl, add the citrus, zests, salt and mix well. After pressing out as much moisture out of the scallops as possible, add them to the bowl with the citrus with the onion and allow them to sit for about 20 minutes, they will cook quickly.
Once they have cooked, remove them from the citrus juice. To the juice, add the smoked sweet paprika, chipotle powder, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper and whisk together. Add the jalapeño and sliced radishes. Return the onion and scallops back to the dressing and toss well to coat evenly. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Serve in individual bowls with some slivered nori, chopped cilantro and some radish slices for decoration.