My better half took me out for an early Valentine's dinner at III Forks, one of our favorite restaurants. Unlike a lot of upscale steakhouses, this place is a full-plated steakhouse which means you don't have to order your sides a la carte, a good thing considering how pricey the steaks are. It's weird, but my favorite part of the III Forks meal, besides the beef, is their version of creamed corn. I Googled it and found a recipe purporting to be the real deal. I'll have to try it and see.
But I digress. To reciprocate for the wonderful restaurant meal, my husband asked for, and I fixed, scallops for dinner tonight. We both love seafood, but didn't come on to scallops until a couple of years ago. Since then, this lowly mollusk has graced our dinner table quite a bit.
Scallops are best when seared, but I sometimes had problems getting that crispy caramelization. I couldn't figure out if my pan wasn't hot enough, or if it was the type of fat used. Then one night I prepared them and they were a big disappointment. Even my husband, who will eat just about anything not nailed down, gave it up as a bad job. I ran to the computer and Googled. When in doubt, Google; that's my mantra.
I discovered something interesting. There are two types of scallops sold in grocery stores: wet and dry. Wet scallops are treated with a preservative called sodium tripolyphosphate, which causes the little critters to retain water, much like a woman with PMS. Wet scallops are difficult to sear because the cooking process releases their water and they wind up simmering instead of searing. Dry scallops (or diver scallops) are the way to go. The dry version is more expensive, but consider the money you are paying for water retention in the other kind.
Before cooking scallops, rinse them well under running water and, if necessary, remove the catch muscle. This is the muscle the animal uses to close its shell. It's tough and unpleasant to eat, so remove it by prying it off with your fingers or a paring knife. Dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels and season them with a little salt and pepper.
Scallops cook quickly, a couple of minutes on each side should do it. When searing, your pan needs to be HOT. Use an oil with a high smoking point, like peanut or canola oil, and don't use a non-stick pan. Pour just a smear of oil in the pan and heat to where you can see it just starting to smoke. Add the scallops, but do not crowd them. If they touch, they will steam cook. When searing, do not give in to the temptation to peek at how things are doing "down under". Give it a good 90 seconds, then briefly lift with tongs. If you find Nirvana, that beautiful brown color, flip and continue cooking on the other side.
Now that you've got the basics, let's go on to the recipe. It is ridiculously easy.
SEARED SCALLOPS IN SHALLOT BUTTER
1/2 stick (4 TB) butter
2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C finely chopped shallots
1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley
Large "dry" sea scallops (three large sea scallops are generally more than adequate for each serving)
First, make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Continue cooking until the butter is browned and has that wonderful toasty, nutty smell. Be careful it doesn't burn! Pour in lemon juice and while that sizzles, quickly add shallots and parsley. Cook and stir for about another minute and remove from heat. Keep warm. You can easily double the sauce if cooking for four people.
Prepare and cook scallops as directed above. Plate your scallops and spoon the shallot butter over the tops.
"I am not
a glutton; I am an explorer of food." How I miss Erma Bombeck!