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Help me fall in love with scallops?

I have never much cared for any kind of seafood: I will eat fish if prepared in certain ways, and I get cravings for fish and chips once in awhile, but that's about it. Oh: I'll also eat a large prawn or two in certain dishes at a few restaurants I go to, provided that they don't have that fishy taste to them.

That being said, I have decided to become determined to train myself to develop more of a taste for seafood. After watching shows like Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef, I have become wildly curious about scallops: they just look so beautiful seared.

I went to the store the other day and purchased six lovely frozen scallops. (I will make a point of trying to find fresh ones soon, but I bought these on a whim.) I have a couple of questions for you. Will thawed scallops sear properly? What tips can you give me to sear them? How long should they cook? Are they good just seared or should I add other flavourings afterwards? Anything else I should know?

If they will not sear well, are there any simple recipes using frozen scallops that you'd recommend?

Thanks so much, all. I'm incredibly excited and hopeful to expand my range of proteins!

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  1. Good deal!

    Thaw those babies out, pat them dry, and then proceed with this recipe, which has good step-by-step explanations:http://www.thehungrymouse.com/home/20...

    My tip: be sure, once you put the scallops in the pan to sear, not to move them around. They won't get a proper crust if you disturb their contact with the pan. The only time you move them should be to flip them.

    1. frozen scallops are usually "wet", which means they were injected prior to being frozen. when they are thawed, place on several layers of paper towels, and place more towels on top. then put a cast iron skillet on top to press out as much liquid as possible.

      they need very little cooking time. depending on the size, perhaps a minute per side. salt them generously before placing in a hot pan.

      i am utterly spoiled in boston with regular access to fresh scallops, so have never had frozen ones. my honest suggestion would be to batter and fry the frozen guys, or use them in a stew. the texture is nothing like that of a fresh scallop. do your best to seek them out -- only buy if the sign says "dry". you will be a convert.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        A big THANK YOU hotoynoodle for the squeeze-out-the-liquid suggestion. I have been trying to replicate the scallop, asparagus, and macadamia nut dish we had at Chau Chow City (sp?) in Boston about 10 years ago. Your suggestion improved the dish greatly.

      2. I, too, am spoiled with fresh scallops. Even more so because when I was a teenager, my mom went scalloping and brought home fresh bays. Nothing like 'em! But, like you, I am not a big seafood kid...though I do love scallops.

        Nowadays we buy sea scallops and sear them, but I started with bay scallops (fresh from the sound) and this very tasty way my mom prepared them:
        - in a baking dish with butter, wine and Ritz cracker crumbs...broiled...you can throw some garlic in there, too. So simple, so yummy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kattyeyes

          Ditto, a very favorite dish with bays from my CT days.
          As with many others, I have also moved on to sea scallops, although I did enjoy some fresh fried bays this summer in MA.
          Other posters have offered excellent handling and cooking technique suggestions; I really have nothing more to add except a light cooking touch is mandatory, so vopal can also fall in love.

        2. Searing scallops and creating a nice brown char on the outside has stymied many a cook.

          Buy “Dry” scallops, most grocery stores/clubs sell “wet” scallops which contain STP which is a preservative. STP causes these scallops to retain moisture by binding water to the proteins. When you try to sear these on an anemic home cooktop you will usually result in less than stellar results.

          So when buying scallops ask for and purchase “dry” scallops.

          Christina gave some good advice.

          Pat the scallops dry, preheat a heavy sauté pan (non-stick pans seem to produce worse results, btw) that has been properly seasoned over medium-high heat, when hot pour some oil into the bottom of the pan, just enough to coat, preheat this pan un

          [Butter: Using whole butter can be tricky in cooking scallops and has resulted in several burnt batches. If you want to use butter I suggest clarified butter and not whole, otherwise stick to oil.]

          Add the scallops to the pan but do NOT overcrowd, depending upon the heat output of your stove keep the medium high flame or in some under-powered units go to full blast.

          As Christina said, Do NOT move them, allow them to cook until the edges just start to curl or show some browning. Once this happens, they ‘may’ be done on that side, shake the pan strongly, if they stay put keep cooking, repeat process if they slide around turn them over. If some slide loosely and others stick turn those over that slide and wait 10 seconds and then turn the stickers over.

          Cook the second side very briefly, you don’t need color on that side for presentation and the last thing you want to do is to overcook a scallop. Visually you should just be able to see a small translucent line on the side of the scallop, you can also do a press test.

          Recipes are endless, scallops are like the chicken of the sea (sorry starkest) they are versatile and take to any flavor combination that you want to do with them.

          Hope this helps, have fun and enjoy.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RetiredChef

            Butter should not be an issue in *broiling* scallops--just to clarify further. My mom always made them that way and nothing burned.

            1. re: kattyeyes


              You are correct.

              Butter is also not and issue if your goal is to sauté them and simply brown them. I might have read more into the question than I needed to and should have been clearer. What most people ask me to teach them is how to “sear” the outside of the scallop so it is a crunchy caramelized cap on the delicious and succulent scallop. They are looking for that restaurant “texture” that adds an added level of complexity that they can’t get at home.

              That was what I was describing and to get that you need high temperature and butter ends up scorching before you can those results.

              Lower heat applications as you point out butter works just fine.

          2. another nice option is to follow the technique mentioned in the link I posted, then make a leek-butter-lemon sauce. Remove the scallops to a covered bowl, then, without rinsing the pan, fry some thinly sliced leek until it begins to soften (you may need to add more butter). Deglaze the pan with a little white wine and maybe a splash of chicken broth. Add a light squeeze of lemon juice, but not too much, or your sauce will be too tart. Return the scallops and their juices to the pan, stir, and serve immediately.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ChristinaMason

              I use bay scallops and lightly flour them, then broown them. While that is going on I make a garlic/lemon/butter sauce and add a little sherry at the end. That is the old Locke-Ober recipe I got in the 1960's

              1. re: hazelhurst

                Wondra flour is great for something like this. I keep it around just for browning meat and fish, you get a nice crust.

              2. re: ChristinaMason

                i do something similar, except i deglaze wtih white wine, lemon juice, and then add a little cream and tarragon... great served wtih roasted, grilled or braised asparagus.

              3. I use thawed out frozen scallops, that's adapted from Ina Garten's Scallops Provencal. It's an amazing dish, even with my changes.

                Basically, you thaw your scallops on paper towels. Then pat dry really well. I use the large sea scallops for this dish. Sprinkle the raw scallops with a pinch of salt and pepper.

                I usually make 3 scallops, so this is adapted for one person, but if you double the scallops, it still has a good amount of sauce.

                In a bowl, place about 3 tablespoons of flour. Place scallops in flour and shake excess, move to a dish. Mince up 1 shallot, 1 large garlic clove. Place 2-3 T. of unsalted butter in a medium to high, heavy skillet. Let butter foam and melt. Place scallops in the skillet and pan sear for 2 minutes. Turn scallops over. Let cook for 2 more minutes, without moving them around.
                Add 1 more tablespoon of butter, shallot and garlic, let cook for 45 sec. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine, remove from heat. Turn off heat, remove skillet to a cold burner. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes.

                To serve, add 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley, stir scallops and serve over basmati rice.

                This is my favorite way to enjoy scallops.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mcel215

                  Thank you mecl215, I used your version of Ina's Scallops Provencal, to attempt scallops a second time (first attempt by pan searing was only so-so), and they came out moist and tender, and the wine , butter, shallots and garlic added the kick I was looking for. Wow!

                  However, some of the steps seemed incomplete, or odd (45 secs to saute garlic and shallots, and where was the S&P?), so, after enjoying the scallops, I checked Ina's recipe on the Food Network site, and the complete recipe does fill in the gaps in seasoning and cooking times.

                  I highly recommend this recipe. I love it when a recipe works!

                  1. re: debs20

                    Hi Deb,
                    I had to read what I wrote because it was almost a year ago ;) . I still make this as my signature scallop dish, even with the quirky changes. The only changes I made is to cook the shallots longer (putting them in the skillet with the scallops), but not the garlic. If I have parsely in the house, I chop and put some in at the end. Although, I have found it doesn't change the flavor much. And I put the flour in a little plastic (cheap), sandwhich bag and put the 3 scallops in to shake a minute, then remove.
                    Also, I buy my scallops flash frozen, from Costco. That way, I can use them for one person or more, taking out a few at a time. I do defrost them all day in the fridge and really let them sit on the counter for about an hour before I prepare this recipe. If you keep blotting them with paper towels, they are a good and econimical way to have this dish weekly. :)
                    Happy to introduce you to Ina's Scallop recipe, it's one of the best I've had!

                2. I agree with kattyeyes that broiling is the easiest way to get a good sear on your scallops. You can see the side that's cooking, moisture can't get trapped between the scallop and the heat source, and they're a lot less likely to stick.

                  1. A very simple method is to use a saute pan, med-high heat, add 1/2 T olive oil, then 1/2 T butter, scallops and follow the retired chef's and Christina's great tip, season with dill and pepper, at first flip, add some drained, rinsed capers. The idea is to get the capers to caramelize. Easy!

                    1. Put the scallops on top of some parmesan risotto, then drizzle them with balsamic glaze!

                      1. Has anyone tried using a blowtorch to sear scallops? I don't own one, but I'm collecting data points on possible uses. Not too many more before I "have" to have one.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: jeremyn

                          Sure, why not? Blow-torching food seems to be the thing to do these days, no judgement implied. I'm sure it'll work on scallops as well as it does on steak or salmon skin. How were you planning to finish cooking the scallops? Or were you planning to just eat them raw with a torched exterior?
                          In thinking about this, it would probably take you the same amount of time to sear the scallops in a pan as it would to torch them and then finish them by another method.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            If you have a strong blow-torch, it *should* allow you to sear them at a much hotter temperature and get a nice crust without leakage. I was wondering if anyone could verify this theory.

                            Yeah, just planning on eating them "raw" or at whatever doneness they are at after searing.

                            1. re: jeremyn

                              Speaking from my experience with blow torching things (food products) you can definitely get a nice crust on a sea scallop, (I think you were referring to sea scallops?) but I wouldn't bother trying that with bays, if perhaps you were thinking of using them. Start with fresh dry sea scallops for no "leakage."
                              Note: I have not torched scallops, but it seems it's not uncommon to do. From what I've googled, it appears sushi places in Japan do sear their scallops or parts of them, anyway, and given the current interest in the US of torching food, I wouldn't be surprised if your favorite restaurant down the street is not trying it.
                              Perhaps you could briefly marinate the scallops prior to torching for a little extra flavor.
                              BTW, I have no objection to eating raw scallops, unless they're past their prime.

                              Go for it and let us know.

                          2. re: jeremyn

                            Works well. Make sure they're dry first. A while back I did some huge scallops sous vide, then hit them with the torch to crisp the tops and bottoms.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Is this at work? Or do you have a home sous vide setup?

                              1. re: jeremyn

                                Do a crock pot and a rheostat constitute a "home sous vide setup"? It's low tech, it's trial-and-error intensive, but it works. One of these days I'm going to rationalize a PID controller...

                          3. My father didn't like anything with a "fishy" taste that was warm -- he'd deal with tuna fish salad, but not eat cooked fish.

                            I would take sea scallops, bay scallops or white fish filets and cook them ever-so-slowly in a little clarified butter, minced garlic, shallots and salt and pepper. When I say slowly, I mean very, very slowly -- there should be no noise coming from the pan and the shallots/garlic should just barely bubble. Turn the scallops/fish once, and then serve.

                            The "science" behind this is from health-food guru Adelle Davis. She instructed in her book "Let's Cook It Right" that fish smells fishy only if it's bad, or it's been cooked on very high heat. Keep the cooking temp. down to below water's boiling point and the fish odor will not come out.

                            Perhaps the OP is setting him/herself up for failure -- if you sear a scallop, the outside will taste "fishier" than a scallop that's not been exposed to such high temperatures. I'd say get used to the taste first, then concentrate on searing them. I can tell you from plenty of experience, that even when using delightfully fresh "dry" scallops getting them to brown up by searing is a difficult feat. Getting them to brown or "crust" up without the insides turning to rubber is far more difficult.

                            So go slow at first -- keep fish cooking temps down so as to avoid the fishy smell, and get used to the flavor and texture. Once you fall in love with properly-cooked seafood, you'll probably end up trying to sear it later on, once you're more experienced.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: shaogo

                              "Getting them to brown or "crust" up without the insides turning to rubber is far more difficult."
                              A hot saute pan will take care of that, without the scallops turing to rubber. Quick cooking and a deft hand is essential with scallops. It's not rocket science, however.
                              "if you sear a scallop, the outside will taste "fishier" than a scallop that's not been exposed to such high temperatures"
                              I have never experienced this. The seared crust of the scallop carmelizes and brings out the natural sweetness of the scallop. It's a perfect example of the Malliard reaction at work.
                              I think Adelle Davis' point was that fish should be handled gently, (as in not overcooked) but I disagree with her opinion that fish cooked on high heat makes it smell "fishy". What about broiling, grilling, pan-sauteing, all high-heat methods. Besides, by your method, which is poaching rather than sauteing, you don't get any "color" on your fillet, a desirable quality for some dishes.
                              The only time I've ever experienced a "fishiness" or a fishy odor when cooking fish by any method is when the fish was not impeccably fresh.

                              1. re: shaogo

                                What she said

                                Key Point

                                >>>The only time I've ever experienced a "fishiness" or a fishy odor when cooking fish by any method is when the fish was not impeccably fresh.

                                Scallops like abalone have an extremely short shelf life before they turn fishy. High quality places only purchase diver scallops (scallops harvested by divers) because they can be transported or Fed-Ex'd to you the day they were caught. That means you are using them on Day 2 and will be finished with them on Day 3.

                                Most home owners buy mechanically harvested scallops, that process alone can take up to 7 days to reach a shipper. Even dry scallops purchased at good markets will have been in the supply chain for 3-4 days. By that time the meat has degraded greatly and IMO not even worth spending the money on, it would be far better to buy a boat frozen dry scallop.

                                I can assure you that in over 40 years of cooking fresh seafood from Toulon France to Hawaii with stops in Florida and the Pacific Northwest, fishiness is a result of the natural decay process that is happening in the fish. The science behind it is when a fish, or any living organic matter is killed its flesh will begin to decay. Amines, technically trimethylamine is an organic compound contained in the flesh of fish, it is released during the decaying process. This chemical is what causes that fishy order and as the fish gets older more of this chemical is produces due to organic synthesis in decay.

                                Now back to high heat vs low heat, the fact that the starting amount of trimethylamine a fish has in it does not change during the cooking process but high heat can result in more of the compound being forced out of the flesh and into the air so you may have a more fishy smell when you cook it. However this will actually cause the fish to contain less trimethylamine and result in less of a fishy smell than a control piece cooked under low heat.

                                Hope that helps, sorry for all the science before I changed to becoming a chef I was a physics major.

                                1. re: RetiredChef

                                  Indeed my method for fish/scallops does not result in any Maillard action.

                                  And I agree with Bushwickgirl that a hot saute pan and a flip of the wrist will result in a great scallop -- in the restaurant. Very few home cooks have stoves that will achieve the kind of heat necessary and stay at high temperatures.

                                  Finally, thanks for the info about the science behind fishy odors. I should've qualified -- I run a restaurant with a sushi bar. Non-sushi eaters are consistently amazed that there's no odor whatsoever to the sushi bar (sadly, I've visited some smelly sushi bars and wonder why nobody cleans them). For some reason, people who aren't experienced think the sushi bar's going to smell like their local fish market.

                                  Adelle Davis's whole schtick was keeping proteins underneath a threshold temperature, above which they become tough and change dramatically. She mentions cooking fish fillets at a lower temp to control odors -- perhaps I recalled her rationale incorrectly. Maybe she was just trying to keep people from frying fish until it spatters all over.

                                  Thanks for all your thoughts!

                                2. re: shaogo

                                  Ditto this rec.

                                  Forgive me for being presumptuous, but believe what shaogo is recommending is essentially to poach your scallops.

                                  Aside from searing them (which others have already suggested), poaching scallops might be my favorite way to cook them, esp. when you don't have dry day scallops and are stuck with the wet kind.

                                  I like to use a mild poaching liquid made of dry white wine, fish stock and some fresh thyme and/or ginger.

                                3. I love scallops every which way, including raw but if I were helping someone love scallops I can't think of anything better than bacon wrapped scallops under the broiler!!! who doesn't like bacon. It's still a favorite of mine when eating out as well.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                    i always parcook the bacon first for stuff like this. otherwise the bacon is still wobbly and the seafood is overcooked.

                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      Definitely my favorite way. There's a restaurant here in Charlotte (Blue) that has the most wonderful bacon-wrapped scallops. I haven't tried it myself yet but plan to soon.

                                    2. My dh doesn't care for fish, and I on the other hand love just about anything that swims in the water. I would make a seafood curry for him when we first met, that he really loved, which was funny, because I figured he probably wouldn't like the taste of curry either, but I made it anyway. This particular curry is pretty boring by most standards, made with cream, wine, and a rather hot curry powder. I use prawns and scallops in the dish, and he loves it. Let me know if this is a dish that might interest you and I'll write the recipe.
                                      sorry this is brief and scattered, I am literally running out the door to an appointment!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        I would love your recipe, anything swims with curry sounds fabulous to me!!!!

                                        1. re: lexpatti

                                          my pleasure, just got home not too long ago, I'll get it for you once the family has settled down. It's a curry that's for beginners, and I think delicious and fit for company.
                                          In fact I have, sort of risky if you don't know their feelings about curry, but everyone has loved it.

                                          1. re: lexpatti

                                            Sorry to be so late, I thought I bookmarked this and obviously didn't. Thank goodness I saw the thread going around again today. It's a terribly easy recipe that is a tiny step into cooking with curry. I make this dish for family and friends, serve it with the same jasmine rice, and steamed carrots with dill every single time (if it ain't broke...) and I always get compliments and licked plates.

                                            Here it is:
                                            3/4 pound scallops or 1lb if you only want scallops
                                            3/4 pound of medium raw, cleaned and peeled fresh shrimp
                                            1 cup cream
                                            1 cup white wine
                                            2 cloves garlic
                                            2 scallions whites only chopped fine or use 1 shallot finely chopped
                                            1 small white onion chopped fine
                                            1/3 cup butter room temperature
                                            1-2 T Madras curry powder
                                            1 T summer savory (dried)
                                            white pepper
                                            cornstarch slurry - 1 T cornstarch mixed with 2T water

                                            In a large saute pan, melt half of the butter. Add the onions and the garlic cooking until they're soft. Add the rest of the butter, add the curry and stir. Add the scallops and the shrimp cook until shrimp are pink and the scallops opaque throughout. You should flip the shrimp and scallops and watch carefully. Remove when they just reach this stage, depending on your heat and the size of the shrimp and scallops, can take about 3-5 minutes. Lift them out immediately after they're cooked. Put them on a plate and cover, keep warm.

                                            Remove the pan from the heat, and add white wine. Bring the wine to a high heat, then just as it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let it cook down a bit. This will remove the alchohol taste, and bring the wine to about 1/2 cup. Don't worry if you have more. I've doubled the sauce portion at times because the sauce is so good. So I do recommend to do that.
                                            Then add the cream and the summer savory, let it heat through. Add the slurry and slowly bring the mixture to a boil so the sauce thickens. Stir the sauce to prevent scorching, and reduce the heat. Once the sauce is thickened, add the scallops, shrimp and the juices back to the saute pan. Stir gently to heat the shrimp and scallops but don't cook. Serve with jasmine rice, or a rice of your choice.

                                            I was getting my curry from source in sri lanka, and it was really fiery and sooo good. I'm out of it now and use the canned Madras and it works nicely too, just not as hot. But there are many nice curry combinations or you can make your own.

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              excellent, thank you. I'm looking forward to this but it may have to wait until my kitchen remodeling is done (and we haven't started yet but most is packed up) - start date keeps pushing out.

                                        2. Wondering how your scallops turned out and where you bought them. All the frozen scallops I have purchased in TO have tasted awful, due to the preservative I think, whereas I loved seared scallops at good restaurants and find them neutral at worst even at cheaper places. But despite past failures, every few years I get sucked in and buy some more, I have some PC ones in the freezer right now. Keeping my expectations low and won't even attempt a sear this time!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: julesrules

                                            Unmentioned so far are the faux scallops that are cut out of shark meat.
                                            I know enough about marine biology to know what the grain is supposed to look like on scallops.
                                            I have seen the other (shark) at scallop prices at some decent grocery stores inland.

                                            1. re: shallots

                                              there are unethical restaurants that serve various fish cheeks cut round like scallops. the difference is unmistakable. this happened to me not long ago at a local sushi place on my first and last visit.

                                          2. Thanks everyone for your tips and help.

                                            I ended up waiting to try them until I could get my hands on some fresh scallops, but life got in the way. Last night, however, I ended up at a reputable upscale local restaurant that ended up having as a special seared scallops. I ended up ordering them and while I enjoyed them, they didn't blow me away. I'd definitely eat them again, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to get my hands on them. I'd still like to try cooking them at home - especially now that I know what they're supposed to be like. (They were prepared correctly according to my two dining companions, who have enjoyed seared scallops on many occasions.)

                                            Thanks again to everyone for all your thoughtful words and posts.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: vorpal

                                              We want to hear back from you when you fall in love! ;)

                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                The more I think about it, the more I suspect that they may have been underseasoned. I think some extra salt and pepper would have really helped them out! So I may yet fall in love :D.

                                                This is the year, though, where I have decided to cure myself of my fear and hatred of all things from the water. I dared to try raw oysters a few weeks ago and actually found myself enjoying them! Two years ago you couldn't have paid me enough money to put a scallop or oyster in my mouth.

                                            2. my suggestion for falling in love with scallops is to forget the searing thing, and get thee to an excellent dumpling house that does scallop and ginger dumplings.

                                              I will pretty much defy chopstick etiquette at Yum Cha and stab fellow patrons in the hand to get the last of those babies.

                                              Otherwise, poach them in butter, and add a splash of Pernod just before serving.

                                              1. I'm wondering how you know when the scallop is fully cooked? Should it be slightly translucent in the center with a slight chill? or Should it be warmed through & fully white? I understand there are diffent sizes, but I'm talking about the larger type. I don't like my scallops to be (for a lack of a better word) "slippery" in the center. I like a slight chew but always worry I'm overcooking them. Is there a "touch" test similar to the one used for steak doneness?