Here is an article that I submitted for publication to Food and Spirits Magazine back in the day. Since I have been too busy to make anything new and interesting, a little something to “chew” on until I do.
Scallops, Not Just for the Coasts
In our traditional cow-town there are a few brave souls that are willing to prepare more than just steak. If you are one of these adventurous souls you should consider trying scallops. Scallops received their name from the shape of their beautiful shell, but the real treasure is inside.
Scallops are a bivalve mollusk. There are many different species; some attach themselves to rocks or other hard surfaces, others swim by snapping together which forces the water to propel it. This action develops the “eye” or abductor muscle, the delectable meat that is so very good to eat. The color of the meat can vary from delicately colored pink, tan and white. They can measure from ½ to ¾ inches in diameter, some can even be as large as hockey pucks, but I’m not sure that these would taste any better than said puck.
When purchasing scallops there are a few things you need to keep in mind. They should be the proper color, firm in texture and have a mild sweet odor. If possible you should always buy “dry pack” scallops, this means that they have been brought in fresh, do not have any preservatives, phosphates, and do not have any extra water added, like frozen specimens. These “dry pack” scallops are much better for browning as they do not have the extra water that prevents them from browning correctly.
Sea scallops are the most common species available for harvesting. They are harvested off the coast of northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. They are usually shucked at sea and just the meats are brought to shore and usually measure between 20-30 scallops per pound.
Calico scallops are one of the smallest species available and are harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. They measure about 70 or more per pound. They are usually brought in to the docks and shelled there. The heat treatment used for open the shells causes the tips to appear white.
Bay scallops are harvested on the eastern sea board from Maine to the Carolinas. They are not as abundant as other species making them more expensive. They are small in size but are known for their sweet flavor and delicate texture.
Pink and spiny scallops are harvested off the coast of Washington and British Columbia. They are approximately 2 inches in diameter and yield 20-25 scallops per pound.
Whether you purchase your scallops fresh or frozen you need to keep them cold. Keep a cooler with ice in the car for transporting them home. Store them in the refrigerator between 32 and 38 degrees. Most of the scallops that you buy fresh will already be shucked from the shell so you will not have to worry about shucking them. For fresh scallops should be cooked the same day do not keep more than two days. If buying frozen scallops keep them in the freezer until ready to use them; they can be stored in the freezer for a couple of months.
When defrosting frozen scallops do so slowly to prevent cells from being disturbed and fewer juices leak out, defrosting overnight in the refrigerator is best. Do not defrost at room temperature for food safety. If you need to defrost seafood quickly submerge scallops in a sealed plastic bag in cold running water for about an hour.
It is extremely important to be very sanitary when handling any type of seafood. Clean all surfaces before and after contact. Do not use the same utensils that have touched raw seafood with cooked seafood.
When cooking scallops the number one mistake that is made is over cooking. Depending on the size of the scallop and the cooking method it takes only a couple of minutes to cook them thoroughly. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, but again it depends on the size of the scallop. Broil at an even quicker pace. Do not leave them and check by touching if there is firmness but still giving the scallop is done. And do not forget carry over cooking time from left over heat in the pan. If you choose to sauté your scallops on a couple of minutes on the presentation side and flip and cook till opaque in color and has that firmness with give. If you are cooking them is a stew or casserole, or poaching them leave till the last few minutes to keep them from being chewy.
When cooking the scallops use as little fat as possible to keep from masking the subtle sweet flavor of the meat. Although a favorite appetizer of many people are bacon wrapped scallops.
There are quite a few restaurants in the Omaha area that serve scallops on their menu. Most of them stick to the favorite mentioned above. However, there are a few inventive dishes that are worth mentioning.
M’s pub serves their scallops along with shrimp and peppers on pasta topped with arugula pesto cream.
Flat Iron Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Saffron Cream, with Sweet Corn Risotto
V Mertz Dayboat Scallop with Blood Orange, Enokis, Daikon, Shiso (a herb cousin to basil and mint).
Vivace serves their scallops with ravioli – butternut squash ravioli sautéed with scallops, prosciutto, leeks, mushrooms and sweet peas in brandied lobster cream sauce topped with crumbled goat cheese.
Liberty Tavern pan sears a sea scallop with oxtail-red onion marmalade, spicy carrot-raisin salad.
All of these sound wonderful. The flavors the textures are different and more complex than just bacon wrapped around the scallop. I was able to taste the butternut squash ravioli dish. To me the star of the dish wasn’t the scallops, but the butternut squash ravioli and the sauce. They were excellent; however the scallops were like little sauce sponges and soaked up the sweet, savory sauce flavor and they were perfectly cooked. Overall it was an delicious dish and I would recommend trying it.
I’m a wife, mother, pastry chef and amatuer gardner. I travel as much as possible, can what I grow, and taste as many new things as possible.