This is a hard-to-beat dinner for those of us who love scallops! I buy dry-packed scallops, which are a better choice than wet-packed ones, since the wet ones have more water content making it harder to get a good sear. Locally I always purchase my scallops from John & Sheila Lester at Duggan’s Seafood Truck (in the DeVille Plaza parking lot – Thursdays and Fridays only). They are fresh & dry-packed, but are kinda pricey (around $20 lb), so you may not want to feed a crowd with these. 🙂 These scallops are so fresh that if vacuum-sealed and frozen, they taste fresh even months to years later when thawed and cooked (not recommended, but sometimes things get found in the freezer – actually, the ones in the picture had October 2014 date on them).
The key to a good sear is a very dry scallop, so be obsessive about patting them dry on all sides with a paper towel before searing! Butter makes for a good sear, but for anyone avoiding butter, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) works as well. All fresh scallops need for seasoning is a light sprinkle of salt and fresh ground black pepper – one doesn’t want to overshadow their natural sweet taste.
I use a dry ceramic skillet over a medium-hot burner (a flick of water should quickly evaporate), but any non-coated heavy skillet will work. One can either brush the scallops with melted butter (or EVOO), then salt & pepper before searing, or add a small amount of butter (EVOO) in the skillet and add the S&P while they cook.
Place the scallops in the hot skillet spaced evenly apart (do not crowd – try to leave a ‘clean’ spot to flip each one for searing the opposite side. If the first scallop doesn’t sizzle when placed in the skillet, wait a little longer for the skillet to get hotter. After about 2 minutes lift with tongs or a thin spatula. If they resist, give them another 30 sec and try again – they should lift easily when the sear is done. Flip to a fresh spot and sear another 2-3 minutes. You want the center barely opaque – DO NOT OVERCOOK or they will get rubbery. Better to be a little on the rare side (they will continue to cook after removed from the skillet). If you have an instant read thermometer, they are done at 120* (minimum) to 140*.
Important note about scallops: They cook so quickly, all side dishes should be done and the table set before the scallops are seared! In the picture below they were served with rutabaga fries and sautéed Asian green beans.
1 pound dry-packed scallops
1 T melted butter or EVOO
Salt & Pepper to taste
(1) Remove the tough white ‘foot’ from each scallop (if present).
(2) Pat scallops very dry with a paper towel, then brush both sides of each scallop with melted butter (or EVOO) and add a light coating of salt & pepper. (Alternative is to add the butter or EVOO to the heating skillet).
(3) When a heavy gauge, non-coated skillet is ready over a medium-hot burner (a drop of water quickly evaporates), place each scallop in the skillet, spaced wide enough apart to be able to flip them to a ‘clean’ spot.
(4) After 2 minutes flip them with tongs of a thin spatula. If they don’t come loose easily, give them another 30 seconds or so before flipping. Flip to a clean spot in the skillet and sear another 2-3 minutes, until the center is barely opaque – DO NOT OVERCOOK. It’s better to be on the undercooked side – they will cook a little more after being removed from the skillet.
(5) Plate and serve immediately.