Seared Scallops with Corn Velouté
“Seared scallops are very simple to make into a blissful crustacean eat if you follow the rules and don`t over cook it.” Now every time Kei tells me a recipe is “simple,” he proceeds to detail at least 2 pages of instructions that will take 2 hours to prep and 2 hours to cook… his “simple” Roasted Chicken recipe will be tackled some day…
However, seared scallops truly are very simple to make. I think the most complicated part is figuring out what to serve them with that will do justice to presentation and taste. However, since I had earlier prepared Chilled Corn Velouté and was making the seared scallops as an accompaniment, it was already decided!
Kei recommends getting diver scallops; these large scallops are the most commonly used in restaurants. The are called “diver scallops” because these scallops are hand-harvested by divers off the ocean floor, and thus are less gritty than the usual scallops that are captured by a dredge across the ocean floor. Diver scallops are also considered more ecologically friendly as no undersea flora is damaged like with dredge-harvesting; additionally, the divers tend to select the larger more mature scallops and leave the younger ones to replenish the population.
Retailers will describe scallop sizes in a range of numbers that indicate how many scallops would constitute one pound. So if you see a size listed as “20/30”, that indicates it takes about 20-30 scallops to make up 1 lb. The smaller the scallops, the larger the number will be. Sometimes sizes will be listed as “U/10” where the “U” stands for “under”, meaning it would take fewer than 10 scallops to make up a pound. Sea scallops, which includes diver scallops, are the largest of scallops and range from 10/40 in size.
The best way to pick out nice scallops is by checking the following; firmness (in the end its a mussel, so if it looks broken don’t get it), color (should be a very light peach color, not yellow), and finally smell (if it smells like the ocean, no bueno).
I served these seared scallops with crispy pancetta (diced and fried), Roasted Corn Kernels, Baby Greens with a Lemon Vinaigrette, and Chilled Corn Velouté. I had very little direction in terms of how all these items were to be served, so Natalya and I played around with various presentations.
Yields: 6-8 servings
- 18 diver scallops (U/10 – U/15)
- Cooking oil
- Unsalted butter (1 T per pan, depending on how scallops you fit comfortably)
- Salt to taste
Before you cook your scallops, there is (sometimes) a part that needs to be removed. On the side of the scallop, there is a little tongue-like piece that comes right off, so remove this and discard. This is essentially the “foot” of the scallop — residual parts of the muscle that attache it to the shell. It’s edible, but most people will remove it for presentation purposes.
Rinse the scallops under cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel. Season the scallops lightly with salt.
The key to cooking nice seared scallops is to have a very hot saute pan and patted dry scallops. Once your pan is hot (you will know when you put oil in and see little wisps of smoke), place scallops on the side you would like to sear off. Make sure to not overcrowd the pan so each scallops forms a nice crust. Lower heat on pan to medium, and just let the scallops sear for 2 minutes (no peeking, just “let it rock” as Kei says).
Once two minutes have passed, flip scallops over and baste with residual oil in pan for about 30 seconds. Remove the scallops and place on paper towels to remove excess oil. That’s it!
OPTIONAL METHOD: Searing scallops with butter makes it taste better, although you should be careful about the butter turning brown when the pan is too hot. It is recommended to still put a little oil in your pan, add 1 T butter, and then sear your scallops.
SERVING IDEAS: Like I mentioned above, I had no idea what this dish was supposed to look like. I found some help from a recipe via “The Chopping Block” but the photo on the website was not very helpful. So Natalya and I played around with presentation and here are two methods that served to work with the deep bowls we had:
The Chopping Block method: Place 2-3 scallops in the middle of the bowl. Ladle the soup around the scallops and place the dressed micro greens on top of the scallops.
Our random method: Our bowl was a bit deep so we propped the scallops up on a bed of greens. Then we sprinkled the pancetta and roasted corn kernels around before pouring the corn velouté around. It sounds messy and very busy… but it still looked cool and tasted delicious!