In the winter, you can still make some of the foods of summer, with their lighter, fresher flavors. Vegetables can be roasted, boiled or steamed. Chicken can be baked or roasted served with a tropical or traditional salsa. Scallops wrapped in bacon and baked/broiled can be seared and drizzled with a zesty citrus sauce. Let’s face it, meals such as the above can be served all year round, yet when it starts to get dark earlier, and cooler at night we tend to hibernate a bit more and the menu typically moves toward the comfort food of fall/winter. Why not lighten things up a bit?
I was hankering for something different last weekend, and really wanted some scallops as an appetizer. I pulled some ideas from here and there and came up with what I thought was a great zesty, mouth puckering scallop recipe.
Most scallops you find in your local grocery store or fish market have been soaked in a liquid solution that keeps them looking white. AND, they could still contain some sand, so you should drain and rinse them thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels before seasoning them.
If you are lucky to find “dry-packed” scallops, which haven’t been treated with the liquid that makes the scallops white, you won’t need to rinse them – you can just season them with Kosher salt and they’ll be ready to cook. Also, scallops have an adductor muscle (sometimes called a “foot”) on the side. It’s a tough little tab of meat that you should pull off before cooking the scallop because it can be kind of chewy.
When your scallops are patted dry, seasoned and at room temperature, you can put together the ingredients you will need for the sauce. This way, after you sear your scallops, you can quickly cook up the sauce in the same pan.
You will need:
– Scallops — for an appetizer, I usually do 3 per person. So, for two, 6 large sea scallop
– Kosher Salt
– 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
– 1 tablespoon clarified butter —
Butter is made up of butterfat, milk solids and water. Clarified butter is the translucent golden-yellow butterfat left over after the milk solids and water are removed.
Clarified butter is great for sautéeing because it doesn’t burn as easily as ordinary butter, so you can use it for cooking at hotter temperatures. For example, ordinary butter will start to smoke at around 350°F, while clarified butter can be heated to at least 450°F before it reaches its smoke point. Adding a bit of butter always adds great flavor when sautéing, and now you don’t have to worry as much about burning the butter since the pan should be very hot to sear the scallops.
To clarify butter, gently melt a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low heat. The foam forming on the surface is the butter’s water content boiling off. The white residue is the milk solids separating out from the butterfat and water. As the butter continues to simmer, skim off the foam and milk solids from the surface of the liquefied butter with a spoon. Beneath this foam should be a clear, golden liquid. Because it’s pure butterfat, clarified butter doesn’t spoil as easily as ordinary butter, so you can keep it for quite a long time. It’s useful in all kinds of sauce making, especially the butter-based emulsified sauces like Hollandaise and Béarnaise. The water in ordinary butter tends to make the emulsion break down, once it’s broken, you can never get it back. Clarified butter with the water removed eliminates this problem.
– 1/3 cup lime juice
– The zest of one lime
– 1/4 cup orange juice (approximately … just the juice of 1 orange)
– 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
– 2 tablespoons butter (2 tablespoons to saute, 2 to glisten the sauce)
– 1/2 tablespoon honey
– 1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger
– 1/2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped fine
You will need a non-stick large fry pan that is very hot. Add the tablespoon of vegetable oil and clarified butter.
Place the scallops flat-side down in the hot pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan, or you’ll lower the pan temperature, causing the scallops to be steamed rather than seared.
Another important tip: Once you’ve placed the scallops in the pan, don’t touch them! I know you’ll have a little voice in your head telling you to check them, or to move them around — but DON’T! If you give in to that little voice, all you’ll be doing is preventing the scallops from forming the nice brown crust that you want.
Because scallops vary in thickness, as do pan temperatures and so on, it’s not easy to pinpoint an exact cooking time. But after a couple of minutes, it’s OK to peek underneath. If you see a nice, caramel-colored crust on the underside, they’re ready to flip. Cook for 1 more minute, or 2 if the scallops are very large. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to overcook scallops, so you need to be very careful and attentive to the task at hand. The scallops should be removed from the pan and served while their centers are still slightly translucent (you can check this by viewing them from the side), because they’ll continue to cook after you take them off the heat.
They should still be quite springy if you press them with your thumb. If they are very firm or stiff, they’re already overcooked.
Scallops start to turn rubbery if you wait too long to serve them, so get them on the plate right away with the beautiful caramel-colored crust facing up and start the sauce immediately!
Directions for Zesty Lime Sauce:
In the pan where you seared the scallops, add the garlic and sautée just a minute. Then add the orange juice, lime juice, zest, honey and ginger, and reduce on medium heat for 3-4 minutes to reduce. Add in the cilantro, salt and pepper if needed and butter to glisten the sauce. Pour over your waiting scallops and enjoy!