Saturday, December 17, 2011
fun eats & sweet treats: succulent scallops
Why, oh, why is the succulent little scallop so intimidating? For starters, it has a high price tag. Another major drawback is that when overcooked, it turns into expensive rubber. The good news is that the positive aspects of scallops vastly outweigh the negative. If you cook scallops properly, they are so worth it. Because scallops are so rich and delicate, you need only one. So they might have a high price tag, but when you are purchasing only one per person, it's not really a splurge after all. Bonus, they cook extremely fast. Hence, they are perfect as a first course for a nice sit down dinner.
Purchase high quality scallops, preferrably from a local Seafood Market that specializes in fresh sea food daily or a Whole Foods. Key words to look for when purchasing scallops: dry packed, chemical free, or IQF (individually quick frozen).
How to cook a scallop:
Look for a little adductor muscle, or tab, on the side of the scallop. It is firm and will easily tear away if you pull on it. It will be chewy if consumed. Scallops cooked properly should melt in your mouth, so the chewy muscle will be unpleasant in contrast to the delicate scallop meat.
Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, allowing a mixture of olive oil and butter to melt & sizzle.
Rinse and gently blot scallops dry. Season each side with sea salt.
Cook scallop for 2 minutes. You want to hear the scallop sizzle when it hits the pan, and there will be smoke.
Important: Once the scallop touches down, leave it alone. You want to sear the scallop, allowing it to caramelize. Since scallops have a seriously limited cooking time, moving them around will prevent the nice crust from forming.
Sear scallop for 1.5 minutes more. Yes, I mean precisely 90 seconds. It's better to undercook than overcook a scallop. If you purchase high quality scallops, the matter of it being slightly undercooked in the middle is irrelevant. If it's high quality, you could eat it raw. Also, it'll continue cooking a bit even after removed from the pan since the cooking temperatures are so high.
Serve the scallop with something, or rather - serve something with the scallop; such as, two roasted sprigs of asparagus or a very small mesclun salad.
You want your scallop to have a nice brown caramelized crust, much darker than what is pictured above. I took this photo the second time I had ever cooked scallops and I hadn't properly schooled myself on the art of cooking scallops. The only problem now-a-days is that they are so fantastic to eat immediately - who has time to take a picture? Apparently, not I.