Over the weekend we received a disturbing note: "I mangled the (H-E-double-hockey-sticks) out of my scallops tonight and don't want to do it again." Instantly, we switched to nerd mode and wanted to help.
As fans of the sea, we can think of no better flavor than that of a deliciously caramelized scallop, seared on its lonesome in molten brown butter to crispy brown, tender perfection (as in the above photo). Achieving such perfection, for most, is another reality entirely. Overcooked, oversauced and overseasoned are the usual adjectives employed when a pan of these pliant bivalves meets a cruel fate.
Scallops are among the most delicate creatures in our oceans. Store them on ice or in the coldest part of the fridge to keep them fresh. Like a Grade-A steak, a scallop has natural sugars begging to be exploited. Try one raw and you'll understand why. But grocery store scallops are another story: they tend to come with a lot of water, which results in the first sin of searing. Award-winning chef Cathal Armstrong of Virginia's Restaurant Eve says a lot of scallops are treated with liquid phosphates. "They absorb them and it gives them a better retail value -- and white color -- but also a lot of water." Look for "dry pack" or "unsoaked" scallops. If that's not possible, drain them, pat them dry with a paper towel and dust them with easy available Wondra flour, which Armstrong says, "doesn't clump, but instead gives it a nice crust."
The next step towards sublime scallops is a hot pan with a tablespoon of oil and few pats of butter heated to the first hint of smoke. Once the scallops are down (make sure to give each one a half-inch of room to work their magic), turn the heat to medium. And then: Leave. Them. Alone. Pretty please. Instead, pour yourself a glass of crisp, dry, white vino. You earned it.
After two minutes, turn and repeat. Remove. Let the art rest on its canvas (plate, sorry we got carried away) and share a few tablespoons of your wine with the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape free the yummy brown bits. Thicken, drizzle over scallops and, presto, you have the photo.
Filed Under: Ingredients
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