The secret to succulent scallops begins with an open conversation with your local fishmonger or seafood counter regarding where they have come from, how fresh they are, and how they have been preserved. There are two types of scallops for your purchasing pleasure:
Dry packed scallops are what the high end restaurants use. These are high quality and more expensive because they haven’t been soaked in a preservation fluid to dilute their fantastic flavor. These little guys are harder to find, especially if you live hundreds of miles inland, but are worth it if you can get your hands on some. Because they have not been soaked in a solution, they sear perfectly, leaving you with a beautiful brown crust on the outside and a tender inside. Dry scallops may also be labeled as “day boat” or “diver”. Always consume these beauties the same day you purchase them.
The majority of scallops sold in the U.S. are known as “wet” scallops. These have been typically soaked in a sodium tripolyphosphate solution that keeps them moist and plump and well… pretty and preserved until you are ready to enjoy them. It also increases the weight of the scallops, which means more money out of your pocketbook for a chemically laden product that tastes somewhat soapy.
How can you tell if your scallops have been soaked? If they are pure white in color, they have most likely been treated. However, don’t lose heart, if you so live so far inland that the dry variety are out of reach, you can draw the extra fluid out with a quick and easy brine.
Scallop Cooking Directions:
1. Brine scallops if they are the “wet” type. (If they are “dry”, skip to step 2.) To brine simply combine in a large glass bowl: ¼ cup lemon juice, 3 tablespoons unrefined sea salt and 1 cup water and let scallops soak for 30 minutes. Drain the water.
2. Blot scallops dry with a paper towel. (The wet variety will be more likely to steam in the pan, not sear.)
3. Heat ghee in a cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Season the scallops immediately before placing them into the pan. If the salt sits on the scallops too long, it will draw moisture out and will be more likely to steam instead of sear. Add the scallops to the pan.
4. Allow them to sear in the pan without touching them. If the initial bond between the scallop and the pan is broken within the first minutes, they will not caramelize well. Look for a browned crust to form on the very bottom of the scallops, about 2 minutes. Then flip and sear again on the other side for an additional 2 minutes.
1. Heat the ghee in the pan until it is very hot before adding the scallops. I love cooking them in ghee because it gives them a buttery flavor that holds up well to high temperatures. Ghee is stable up to 480 degrees F. Scallops are most delicious when they have a nice brown crust on either side, and are just barely cooked through in the middle.
2. Don’t overcook the scallops. Remember that they will continue to cook even after they have been removed from heat. Any further cooking turns them to rubber and you may find yourself chewing on something more similar to the sole of your shoe.
4. Once the scallops are cooked, dot them with a pat of butter or a squeeze of lemon and serve!