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Dec 5, 2009 05:19 AM

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:

    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 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.