Saturday 13 July 2013

Pan-Searerd Scallops

Scallops are an incredibly versatile protein. A very popular way to eat them is seared on both sides in a hot pan. The product is a delicious, sweet, succulent treat that can be made into a fantastic appetizer or part of an entrée. You could serve them with the side of your choice, salad, risotto, pasta, chutney, cooked veg, rice, a sauce, succotash or anything you want. They add a certain flair to any dish they are featured in. The sky is the limit in ways you can jazz them up your own way. You just need to be careful because they can be off putting if undercooked and rubbery if overcooked. It's all about hitting that perfect stage in between. I'm going to show you how you can do that.

Here is what a fresh scallop looks like. They come in different sizes, but for this technique you want to use rather large scallops. When you buy fresh seafood, always ensure that you your source is a reputable fish monger. Scallops should not be slimy or have a fishy smell. They should be plump and smell slightly sweet.   

This is a technique post, not a recipe. All you need are scallops, salt, cooking oil, and preferably clarified butter (or ghee) but it's not imperative. You want to use a heavy bottomed pan (cast iron is best) for even heat distribution. 


Set your stove to medium-high and add about a tbsp each of oil and clarified butter. Do not use olive oil because it has a low smoking point and will burn. Regular butter cannot be substituted for clarified butter for the same reason. If you don't have any clarified butter, just use 2 tbsp of oil. Vegetable, canola or ground nut oil would be ideal. Add the fat to the pan and wait until it gets screaming hot, or until you just start to see small wisps of smoke emerge from the oil. 

Season the scallops with a little salt and place (flat side down) into the hot oil. They should sizzle immediately. It's important that you do not crowd your pan or the scallops will boil and you won't achieve the caramelized sear that is so essential to this technique. Another important tip: Do not move them. Don't even touch them. Resist the urge and the very thought from entering your head. It's mandatory in order to create a beautifully golden brown crust. You'll need to trust your instincts on when to flip them. I can't give you a precise amount of time because it varies depending on your stove, your pan and the thickness of your scallops. It won't take long. I'm going to say anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. After 60 or 90 seconds you can take a peek underneath and see if they're good or not.


When they are perfect, give them a quick flip. When frying anything always flip away from you to avoid hot oil splattering. They will take about the same amount of time on the second side as they did on the first. If you think the oil is too hot, you can turn the heat down closer to medium. The only thing easier than this technique is to overcook the scallops. Bear in mind that they will continue to cook after they are removed from the pan so you want them to be ever so slightly translucent in the middle when you do so. That you can check by viewing the side. If you're still not sure, gently press the scallop with your thumb. It should be a little springy. If not, it's already overcooked. 

You also want to ensure that you serve them as soon as possible. Waiting too long between cooking and serving can also result in a rubbery texture. So plan ahead if you're serving them with something else. The scallops should be the last thing that requires cooking to come off the heat.

There you have it, guys. It does require a little technique, and it may or may not take a little practice at first. Don't get discouraged if your first attempt doesn't turn out perfect. Every failure prepares you for the next try. If you can nail this, you won't believe how well it goes with so many different options. Requiring such a short time to cook only adds to their versatility. Be sure to give this a try.

See you again soon. Haven't closed a post like this in some time, but...

Be happy and stay fed,


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