Sea Scallops, like clams, mussels, and oysters are mollusks known for their fleshy white meat. The majority of them are harvested in the Atlantic Ocean in either the shallow coastlines of Canada and Maine or in depths up to 300 feet in places like Georges Bank. Absent the briny taste of shrimp or the metallic undertones of oysters and clams, these mildly sweet mollusks are a delicious alternative for those who don’t appreciate their stronger flavored cousins. Over the last 20 years Sea Scallops in the U.S. have made a big comeback creating a boom in the fishing industry at just over $500 million a year. As one of the most important fisheries in our economy, scientists and fisherman are working together to develop new methods of harvesting that will improve their sustainability for the future.
Here at the restaurant we serve them grilled, fried, or sautéed. The most common hurdle you may face when cooking scallops at home is to avoid overcooking them. The part of the scallop we eat in the U.S. is the muscle responsible for opening and closing its shell and propelling it through the water. A lean muscle like this cooks very fast. If you’re grilling them, you’ll want to turn each one over every minute for up to five minutes. The timing varies based on their size, but similar to an egg, Sea Scallops change from semi-translucent to opaque when done. This change is subtle compared to an egg so you will need to watch them closely.
Frying them doesn’t give you the option to see that transformation. This is when you need to rely on your sense of timing. Once you have dredged the scallops in batter, cook a few at a time for about two to three minutes until they are golden brown. Remove them from the pan immediately. Don’t worry if they are slightly undercooked when you take them out. The batter will continue to cook them just enough to finish the process. Overcooking will make the meat chewy and dry for which there is no recovery.
Sautéed scallops are usually pan-seared first before adding the sauce. To pan sear your scallops make sure the pan is very hot, add the oil then place the scallops in the pan and let them sit for roughly 45 seconds to a minute, turning them over once. This results in a nice brown, caramelized, surface on both sides. If you prefer them cooked all the way through, continue cooking for a minute to one and a half minutes. When you’re finished cooking them to your desired temperature, remove them from the pan onto a separate plate. Using that same pan, add your ingredients; for example: butter, wine, and spices. Heat up the ingredients over medium heat until the butter is melted then pour the sauce over your plated scallops. If they have cooled down, you can place them in the pan with the sauce, but don’t leave them in for too long.
The next time you feel like dabbling with Sea Scallops, come in to our seafood market and talk to our knowledgeable staff!