Seared Scallops with Bacon, Peas, and Red Quinoa
Seared scallops had always been one of those dishes that seemed best left to the restaurant experts. Delicately juicy on the inside with a perfectly caramelized crust on the outside − it’s any seafoodie’s dream!
When I decided to try to tackle cooking these oceans gems myself at home, I started to do my usual cooking tutorial research online. In theory, all you need to do is to pat the scallops dry, season them, and then sear it for 1-2 minutes on each side. That seemed quick and easy enough! However, as I soon realized while the “quick” part was true, the “easy” bit…
Like steaks, the cooking time for scallops seems to have a massive margin of error. Nailing that sweet spot between undercooked sashimi and overcooked rubber has been a work in progress. After many trials, I discovered the key was to make sure the grill pan is smoking hot before searing the scallops on each side for exactly than 90 seconds.
Once I finally figured that out, it was time to plan for some side dishes! I initially started serving scallops with some mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. However, when searching for less carb-y alternatives, I came across this recipe from Barnes and Hoggets which married duck bacon, fresh English peas, spring onions and red quinoa. It sounded heavenly!
When I first cooked this recipe in Hong Kong, I had no clue where I would find duck bacon. However, I managed to find smoked lardons at my local grocer, which suited this recipe just fine. A few other changes I made was opting for canola oil instead of butter to cook the scallops, and using frozen peas instead of fresh ones.
This is a lovely savory dish bursting with spring flavors − I highly recommend giving it a go!
Seared Scallops with Bacon, Peas, and Red Quinoa (recipe by Barnes and Hoggets)
Yields: 4 servings
- 1 C dry red quinoa (yields about 3 C cooked quinoa)
- 2 C chicken or vegetable stock
- 12 large scallops (~1 lb in total)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 oz English peas
- 4 scallions, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 4 oz bacon lardons or pancetta
- 1 T canola oil or butter
- sprinkle of lemon juice
Rinse the red quinoa and then cook in boiling chicken or vegetable stock for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. Place in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon lardons over medium heat. Cook until the bacon becomes nice and crispy, and then lift out the cooked pieces to drain on some paper towels.
With the leftover pan drippings, add the scallions and cook gently until slightly softened. Add the peas and cook just for a couple minutes. Remove from heat and mix the peas, scallions, and lardons into the bowl of cooked quinoa.
Next, pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season one side with salt and pepper.
Using the same skillet, clean the pan of any stray bits and then turn the heat on high. Add some canola oil if needed. Once the pan gets scorching hot, add the scallops, seasoned side down. Season the top side with salt and pepper. Cook the scallops for 1 minute and then turn them over. The scallops should have a nice golden brown sear (if not, just give it a bit longer).
To serve, gently spoon the quinoa mix onto the plate and crown it with the scallops. A quick squeeze of lemon and you’re done!