Scallops need attention and care

Scallops need attention and care
Scott Daniels

Cooking scallops takes attention and care from preparation to finish.


Cooking scallops is one of those things that separates the Julias from the boys. They need attention and care from preparation to finish, and you can get it wrong at any point, ending up with rubber pucks.

Added to the possibility of things going wrong is the pressure of cooking something that, if it fails, will be a chunk of cash in the wastebasket. Even if you catch a good sale, large scallops are pricey with $25-$30 worth generally feeding two, at most, if there are filling side dishes.

I was lucky recently when a friend presented a few scallops as a gift, and it was the perfect chance to revisit a dish I haven’t made in likely 15 years, which I’ll share with you today.

First, some basics:

If your scallops are frozen, place them unwrapped in a strainer set into a bowl under a steady, slow stream of cold water to thaw. It doesn’t take long at all, and you should keep checking them by touch to see how they’re coming along. Once they’re soft, transfer them to a paper towel lined tray and pat them as dry as you can. Cover them with a damp paper towel and put them in the refrigerator while you see about the rest of your recipe. Do not salt them or season them just yet.

When they’re ready to be cooked, use either a very well seasoned cast iron pan or one that has a nonstick coating. Cook them in a small amount of fat — I like to use both butter and a little vegetable oil. You don’t want too much, as you’re going to sear, not fry them.

Salt and pepper them now, just before cooking. Salting too early will cause them to dry out and become tough. Once the fat is hot but not smoking, over medium heat, add the scallops to the pan quickly and one at a time without overcrowding. Leave a good inch between them at least, or they’ll steam rather than sear.

The next step is easy: hands off, meaning don’t touch them or shake the pan or peek underneath. Leave them alone. You want them to get the browning that gives them flavor. Cook them for about two minutes, then flip them over for another minute or so. They should be a richly seared brown but not burned in any way. Don’t overcook them but test by pressing gently to see if they’re firming up slightly. Overcooking causes them to be unpleasantly chewy.

I’m finding tomatillos in area stores now, and they make a delicious sauce for the scallops.


Servings: 2

2 ears fresh corn

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 pound tomatillos, husked

1 serrano pepper, stemmed and whole

1/2 small white onion

2 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons butter

1 small handful dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water, chopped

1/2 cup hot chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 large sea scallops

Make the corn pudding by scraping the kernels of corn from the 2 ears, using a coarse grater, getting as much of the juice with the puree as you can. Bring the milk and salt to just under a boil and whisk in the cornmeal. Stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens, then add the corn puree. Remove from heat when it thickens a bit more and add the cream. Set aside.

Briefly sauté the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.

For the tomatillo sauce, add the tomatillos, serrano pepper, onion and garlic to a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain off water. Put it all into a blender or food processor and whiz up until you have a slightly chunky sauce.

Heat the mushrooms and add the sauce to the pan, stirring carefully, for about 10 minutes over medium high heat. It will bubble and spit at you so be careful.

Cook the scallops as described above.

In each serving plate, spoon the corn pudding into the center, then a layer of the sauce. Place the scallops on top and serve.

(Recipe by Robert Del Grande.)

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