June 20, 2011

Seared Sea Scallops: Cheaper and Better at Home

Like many young foodies, I used to willingly spend $12-$16 on a sea scallop appetizer that consisted of, like, three scallops, a bed of micro greens, a soy-based sauce, and maybe some fancy curls of orange zest if the restaurant was feeling generous. I was discovering the finer foods in life, and I wasn't about to let something as stupid as a price tag keep me from satisfaction.

Fast forward to this Spring, when I happened to notice a cute little 1/2 lb. tub of freshly caught sea scallops at the local fishmonger's for $14. We're talking 12-16 scallops, not 12-16 dollars. And that was when I realized I'd been had. Many times. By restaurants up and down the East Coast. For the majority of my high school, college, and post-graduate years. Think of how many beers glasses of wine shoes books I could have been buying if I had known!

I bought the scallops, did a little research, and realized that searing scallops at home is more or less the easiest thing ever. For real. Not to mention the whole "better value" thing.

Seared Sea Scallops

  • 10-14 sea scallops,* washed and patted dry
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
 1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Wait until the oil/butter is foaming and almost sputtering, and then place each scallop in the pan, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the exposed ends.

2. DO NOT TOUCH THE SCALLOPS. At all. Walk away for two minutes and don't even think about looking at them. They need to stay still in order for that lovely crust to form! After two minutes, flip them and give them another one to one-and-a-half minutes, then serve.

3. Serve the seared scallops over a bed of pasta, on their own...however you like. 

Of course, you can dress them up with a fancy Asian sauce or some snooty micro-greens, but, really, seared scallops have so much of their own great flavor that it's a shame to mask it. Or to pay $12-$16 for only three of them, when you could have six or seven (if you're cooking for two) or twelve or thirteen (if you're cooking for one) to yourself.

* If you find a good deal or you live in a place where you can't get fresh scallops regularly, I encourage you to buy in bulk and freeze what you don't cook right away. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how well scallops retain their flavor and texture after freezing, and you'll always have a gourmet meal hiding in the freezer for those unexpected dinner guests or drop-ins.

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