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Dec 15, 2010 12:02 PM

"Dust with Flour???" (help with bay scallops)

I've been taking advantage of scallop season; this will be my third attempt with Nantucket bay scallops. For the first dinner, I tried Bittman's high-heat roasting method from the NY Times but the scallops did not brown much at all.

Last week, for my second effort, I coasted them with seasoned flour and sauteed in ghee, then deglazed with white wine. The result was an improvement over the first attempt. But even though I shook off the extra flour after putting them in the zip-loc with the flour, I had quite a bit of flour in the saute pan, which then burned a bit. Also, since the scallops were so tiny, it was took a long time to turn them all with tongs, so I was not able to brown both flat sides. How to handle this, or should I just forget about browning both sides?

Another question: Many scallop recipes instruct cooks to "dust with flour." Does this mean literally to dust some flour over the scallops, rather than put them in the plastic bag as one might do when breading chicken breasts?

Please let me know if you have a very simple plan for preparing these sweet morsels.

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  1. Personally, I think sea scallops have better flavor, and are easier to cook, than bay scallops. When I cook sea scallops I don't use flour, you can get a beautiful golden brown caramelization without it. Additionally, when you bake scallops as in Bittman's recipe, you really need to play with the cooking time because they go from perfect tender to rubber in nothing flat.

    Great simple way to cook sea scallops (this can also be spiced up any number of ways):

    Season, sear in butter over medium-high heat, add more butter and baste until just just barely cooked through (this means it is opaque throughout, you'll also just be able to make out the grain which runs vertically).

    9 Replies
    1. re: schoenfelderp

      Back in my Manhattan kitchen days, we procured tiny scallops from the Peconnic Bay. It was only a few week season, and we charged about $30 for the entree. We did use a hoop sieve over a large s/s bowl. Very hot pan w/ clarifed butter, but olive oil would be fine. Season the scallops, dust with flour, shake excess, and quickly into thehot pan. Quickly is the key word! They should not be touching each other in the pan. Leave them alone for 60 seconds. No tongs, but try to move most of them around with s/s spoon. They will be done in two minutes total. Classic case of less is more. Enjoy.

      1. re: schoenfelderp

        Are you sure you're talking about Nantucket/Peconic bay scallops? There is nothing better tasting in the scallop world...I can eat a pound of them raw. "bay" scallops are either calico scallops, which are the size of a pencil eraser with about as much flavor, or frozen imports from South America, Mexico, or China. Those are much better than calico's, but are nothing special themselves. Even the live farm raised "Nantucket" bay scallops are relatively bland. As for cooking the real Peconic bay scallops, I prefer to just toss them under a very hot broiler, close to the heat. I don't turn them, but let one side get heavily caramelized, while the other side remains moist and juicy. No seasoning other than a drop of lemon juice. Hmmmm! I wish I had them now...missed the season so far.

        1. re: EricMM

          Just tried to order Peconics for Christmas Eve, and although they were around for over a month this year, apparently it is now over.

          1. re: coll

            Peconic Bay Scalllops........King of the Scallop World!!!!!!!!!
            (Not to be confused with frozen, imported, no taste, Asian Scallops)

            1. re: ospreycove

              I know, this year I got some that were a little bigger than usual, I was eating them raw with nothing on them (as suggested by my fish guy), and will remember fondly until next season.

              1. re: coll

                Truly outstanding! Even my partner, he who turns up his nose at "things with shells," was bowled over by how good these were. I am sad to learn that the season is over. We still have Nantucket scallops in the market here in NYC, though.

                1. re: erica

                  The season this year, even shorter. I saw a sign at Bayview and didn't read completely, it said Peconic Bay but didn't notice it also said OYSTERS, not scallops. The girl at the counter said, oh we had scallops last week and they were so delicious, I wanted to strangle her!

                  1. re: coll

                    YOu're kidding! The guy at our local farmer's market (Pura Vida Fish; I think from Hampton Bays)) told me last week he would have them for a few more weeks..I was planning to buy again next week!

                    1. re: erica

                      They're a farm stand so I'm not saying they're not around. Probably someone in the family harvested them. I really have to get over to Mastic Seafood soon, before it's too late.

      2. Yummy - Nantucket bay scallops!
        Here's how I cook them - dry them very well on paper towel - saute in canola oil at a high heat for a minute or two -I can't remember 'cause I haven't had them this year... don't turn them - just shake the pan - - remove the scallops - add a little butter, and lemon... eat - DRY before cooking is key....
        That's a down and dirty recipe, they don't brown perfectly on top and bottom, maybe just on a side or two - but it's awesome and all they need.

        Regarding dusting - I don't think that flour is necessary with any scallops, but you could do the zip loc method as long as you are sure to shake off the excess - no matter how you do it you need to get rid of excess - also try wondra flour for coating.


        PS. I have also sliced them across the grain - raw and drizzled with good olive oil and a little lemon or orange juice and a sprinkle of salt - awesome!!!

        1. Bay scallops can be lightly dusted with flour or not; when dusted and deep fried, they have a light crispy crust. Other posters have outlined their favorite methods of preparation; I've had 'em those ways and they're great. chefdaddyo's flouring and shaking technique over a sieve will rid the scallops of the excess flour, which will burn in a hot sauté pan. You don't have to turn each scallop individually, think shake the pan vigorously, moving them around. A little color on the scallops, without overcooking, is fine. The only way you'll get all sides nicely browned is to deep fry them; I don't think that's what you're after here. That method is better left for the clam shacks. The real rule of thumb with small bays is very quick sautéing in a VERY hot pan. Clarified butter, saute very briefly, splash of white wine and squeeze of lemon, plate and eat.

          When I lived in New England, I used to bake them, piled up in a ramekin, a little white wine and lemon splash, breadcrumbs or a buttery cracker crumb topping, dress with clarified butter and baked in a very hot oven for 7-8 minutes, until browned on top and barely cooked though; a simple pedestrian dish, but delicious. At another restaurant, we poached the scallops for literally seconds, took a quantity of the flavorful poaching liquid and reduced it down to a glaze, added Madiera and cold butter, and tossed the scallops in that glaze very briefly, just to reheat. They took on the deep brown color and the depth of flavor from the glaze, and were served with a garliky aioli.

          And as harryharry writes, raw, lightly dressed, is awesome.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bushwickgirl

            b-girl, your post made me very hungry! lovely!

          2. I love scallops but have always had trouble getting them to brown without flouring which I did not wish to do.

            Recently I took a cooking class at a well regarded local bistro. The chef said one must buy "dry packed" scallops which all decent restaurants use. He even gets his seafood from one of the two largest purveyors of seafood in L.A. By the way, the look and feel no different than scallops sold in good grocers except perhaps less "juicy".

            The next time I go to buy scallops I'll ask for "dry packed". I am skeptical that they will sell it to the public ... but will try.

            3 Replies
            1. re: SilverlakeGirl

              If the largest seafood purveyors are selling them to restaurants, then they must be selling them to seafood stores too. I get them retail all year round here in NY, not just dry but local and fresh, not frozen. Why wouldn't they sell them to the public, unless people don't ask for it.

              1. re: coll

                Here's a go at explaining the differences....
                Dry pack means that nothing has been added to the scallops - however, they are still wet from the liquid naturally in the seafood.
                Wet pack means that they have STPP (sodium tri poly phosphate) - they are also usually bleached white - the liquid makes them retain more liquid so that when you cook them, they shrink more, exude more liquid and end up steaming.
                Nantucket Scallops, Peconic Scallops, Cape Cod Scallops - are bay scallops, they are small and have a very short season, which is based on the previous year's harvest - temperature, etc.... They are awesome... and they are nothing like the "previously frozen" bay scallops from else where - callico, etc...
                Sea Scallops are large - and also are very tasty! but you should get dry pack

              2. re: SilverlakeGirl

                I buy dry-packed here in NYC all the time. Dump 'em in a hot pan, just a minute or so each side, and they're perfect.

              3. I would suggest, if you do want to dust, that you use Wondra, which is precooked and very fine, and less likely to get gloppy than other flours. Or rice flour, which is also fine-milled.

                10 Replies
                1. re: rcallner

                  I would second this IF I were going to flour them and I would brush of any excess with a pastry brush. If you can't get dry pack, I put my scallops on a paper towel and open to air in the frig all day and this takes out some of the moisture. We dusted some sea scallops last summer with very fine popcorn dust.

                  1. re: rcallner

                    Thanks, everyone. The bay scallops were a smashing success. I dried them first with paper towels. I did not have Wondra but I had very fine rice flour so I used that and took care to shake off the excess flour before putting them in the hot pan with ghee and a bit of olive oil. They did brown a bit-I was afraid to let them brown more for fear of overcooking. I deglazed a bit with wine and lemon juice. They were outstanding!

                    One more question: Would you have cooked these at very high heat? Or medium high?

                    If you are looking for a treat this season, try these Nantucket scallops (or Peconics, if you can fine those; pricey but so sweet!)

                    1. re: erica

                      Hot pan, high heat, very briefly. I'm glad they turned out very well for you, and now I have to get some!

                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                        Thanks so much! Just to be clear, at the highest heat, quickly?

                        They were so incredibly good that I thought the high price tag was justified. Interestingly, they were not as sweet and the ones I had had about two weeks ago but that mattered not at all..they were incredible! Oh, I said that already!

                        I served it with jasmine rice into which I had put a few lengths of bashed lemongrass stalk.

                        1. re: erica

                          "at the highest heat, quickly"

                          Yes indeedy.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                            Yes, high heat, quickly. As for the sweetness, I have found that it fades as the season goes on. Bay scallops only live 18 months or so, maybe 24. That's why the season starts in Nov, after all of them have finished spawning. Since they are all going to die anyway, its OK to keep harvesting. But as the season goes on, the scallops are on their way out. I've had very late season bay scallops, (I think theoretically, it can go on to March), and they were no where near as good as they are early in the season. Still good, though!

                          2. re: erica

                   scallop season, new question:

                            Do you bother removing the tiny white appendage (Is it the muscle?) that is attached to bay scallops? The scallops themselves are very small and the white-ish bit (as opposed to the translucent pink-ish white of the scallop itself) is less than an inch long, sometimes much less than that...I did remove it when I cooked these the other night but it is kind of painstaking.

                            1. re: erica

                              It is a muscle, the adductor muscle, to be specific; it attaches the scallop to it's shell. I don't usually remove them from bays in large quantity, just too much work, but you can with a sharp paring knife. I always remove this muscle from sea scallops. It's tough when cooked, and is very obviously not desirable eating.

                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                Once again you have come to my rescue! I did end up removing last time but will not do so again since they are so small in themselves..thanks!

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  It is _an_ adductor muscle, the "smooth" or "catch" adductor, to be specific. I wouldn't recommend removing the other ("striated") adductor muscle from your scallops, because there won't be much left to eat…