Back from vacation!
Every year, my friends and I rent a huge house in The Outer Banks, NC for a week. We eat and drink like kings: fresh-caught fish, shrimp, oysters, crab and scallops nearly every night. No joke. Oh, and steak. Tons of beer, vodka and rum. We make ridiculous fruity drinks during the day for the beach and pool. I am kinda the unofficial cook for the week and I love it. I get to fry, sauté, bake and sear anything and everything (I leave the grilling to the dudes. They love it).
This year, my good friend Jeff revealed that he picks up tips from our dinner time festivities. We had some scallops laying around (it’s like that) and I decided searing them would be a great lesson. Although it may seem pretty easy, there are a few very important tips that, if not followed, will ruin your scallops. Here’s what Jeff learned:
Go to a fish market or store. Do not get these from your grocery store. Not even Whole Foods. I know it’s more convenient but I’m telling you, it’s worth the extra trip. Most grocery stores buy scallops in bulk and they come wet-packed in a sodium solution in a huge bucket. Get them from a trusted fish shop where they get them dry.
Dry, dry, dry.
Before you cook them, set them on a kitchen towel or paper towel and let them sit for a few minutes. The moisture will slowly be pulled out. Just blotting them will not be enough. As you sear, water will seep out and start to boil your meat – NOT sear. Make sure you do both sides.
Hot oiled pan.
Any oil or butter is fine. Keep in mind that with butter, the fat solids will burn. I like the flavor but some don’t. Either way, make sure you wipe off the pan in between batches and re-oil/heat. Your pan is ready when a flick of water sizzles. Season one side with salt and pepper. Place the seasoned side down in the pan. Season the naked side in the pan. I use the juices/butter/oil and spoon it over the naked side while waiting for the cooking side to sear. This gives the meat a tiny bit of heat and flavor.
A lot of people stir, shove and fiddle when they cook. As a general rule – don’t. Especially when searing meats, don’t touch! The searing happens with patience and time. For scallops, leave them for 2-3 minutes. You can check to see if you have the desired golden brown at the 2 minute mark. Flip to sear the naked side. You’ll know your scallops are done when they feel firm, not mushy. Place them on a plate when they’re done. Don’t leave them in the pan as they’ll continue to cook.
The scallops above are resting on a bed of leeks and red peppers that I sautéed using the fond from the scallop pan. Fond is the brown, caramelized stuff that’s on the bottom of the pan. It’s tasty and adds flavor – use it!
The night we had seared scallops, we also had fried oysters, soft-shell crabs, grilled swordfish & tuna, sautéed sugar snap peas and red cabbage slaw. The night before, we had shrimp cocktail and a seafood chowder I made with local squash, potatoes and sweet onion. I used bay scallops, mahi and shrimp, starting it off with this amazing bacon from Landhaus (the best bacon you’ve ever had in your life, I’m not lying).
I’m just sayin’.
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