A perfectly seared scallop has always been a challenge for me. You too? No matter how much I think the scallops are completely dry (that’s the key to searing almost anything) they still end up being “sautéd” and not seared. Well I think I’m finally getting this down and thought I’d share my success story with you. Using no more seasonings than fresh herbs (oh yeah, a press of garlic, of course.) salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and a squeeze of lemon this light cockpit lunch I served for Evelyn and myself was perfect.
Scallops can be packed and sold two different ways, wet packed and dry packed. The “wet” scallops are soaked in phosphates where they absorb water. The fresh, dry packed scallops are the ones you want. You can read more about the difference here.
Seared Scallops with Herb Linguini
8 dry packed sea scallops (4 per person)
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/2 tablespoon butter
Kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons)
Course ground fresh pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 lb fresh linguini
6 cups salted water
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1-2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 cups fresh chopped herbs (Italian parsley, basil, tarragon and/or fennel work well)
Wash the scallops and lay them on paper or dish towels. Lay more paper towel on top and dry them as well as you can.
Chop your herbs. Today I used a combination of fresh fennel (complete with baby seeds that had just bloomed) and Italian parsley.
I like using fresh pasta on a sailboat because it cooks within a matter of minutes. No need to steam up your cabin on a hot summer day. Boil the pasta in salted water until al denté.
Drain and immediately press one clove of garlic onto the hot pasta using a garlic press. Stir in the garlic and add the EVOO. Adding garlic to HOT pasta takes some of the bite out of the garlic, by warming, in effect cooking, the garlic.
Now comes the scoring, the tricky part that you don’t have to do. I like to score scallops because it creates more edges to crisp up. And the salt and flavors get further into the scallop. So with a very sharp knife on one side only cut 1/4″ deep grooves in a cross-hatch style. Be really careful with this as you don’t want to cut too deep. If your scallops are small, skip this step.
Heat the EVOO in a cast iron pan (Oh…your captain won’t let you have cast iron on a sailboat? Yeah, I hear that a lot. I’ve learned to sneak cast iron pans, corn bread pans and salt plates on Night Town. My skipper now just turns a blind eye. Or rather, rolls his eyes!) or the heaviest skillet you have.
Place the Kosher salt, pepper and a couple pinches of sugar in a bowl and mix together. I like to add the sugar, like I do with many things, because it helps caramelize the scallops and brings out a little bit of their sweetness. If the salt mixture seems too coarse, crunch it down with the back of a spoon. Salting the scallops is the LAST thing you do before you place them in your hot skillet. Salt draws out moisture in foods and you need to avoid moisture when searing. (Where the moisture-draw action comes in handy is with “sweating” eggplants as you see in our Farmer’s Market Breakfast.”)
Lay the scallops, cut-side down in the hot oil and sear for 2 minutes. Do not move them. Just let them sear. Gently with tongs, turn each of them over and sear on the other side.
Serve them immediately, hot, with the herbed linguini, a generous squeeze of lemon and a sweet-crisp Sauvignon Blanc.