I’ve mentioned this before for other foods: sometimes I feel like there is really only one way to prepare something. Tofu is meant to be soaked in soy sauce and fried. Basil is meant to be put into pesto. And scallops are meant to be seared quickly and enjoyed over some sort of grain with vegetables and a light sauce.
Maine is known for its selection of seafood. This fortunately ensures easy access to delicious fish and other salt-dwelling creatures. These scallops I bought at the farmer’s market from Pemaquid Lobster and Seafood; this will be happening again.
Scallops are one of my favorite types of seafood. I also love good salmon (preferably wild), tuna, and a variety of other fish, as long as it is cooked very gently (there is a rather unfortunate plethora of overcooked fish in the world). I have never seen a live scallop but apparently they look like this:
If you are interested in reading about the sustainability of seafood and America’s very bizarre trade system for fish, I recommend Paul Greenberg, who has researched and written extensively on the topic. Listening to his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air is a good place to start. Given the state of seafood availability in this nation, it makes sense not to eat a lot of it. Yet seafood can and should play an important role in the diet and food system of New England generally, as is highlighted in A New England Food Vision, a report about the possibilities for a sustainable food system in the region. The bottom line: if you can find good quality, carefully sourced seafood in your area (that hasn’t been to China and back), eat it.
Seafood also has a slightly different definition of local for me than produce that is cultivated on land, because it can travel more (well, maybe not scallops. But certainly many kinds of wild fish) by itself before being caught and consumed. It’s pretty interesting to consider fishing a kind of open-source farming—the main difference between the two is that the sea is a public resource, and land is private; they have to managed accordingly.
Anyway, once you’ve successfully sourced your seafood, you probably want to cook it. Find it and eat it as fresh as possible—raw fish is not something you want lying around in your fridge for a while.
Seared scallops in White Wine Vegetables Pasta, or other grain About 5 scallops—mine were small—or however many you want to eat (they are expensive, so I wouldn't go too crazy, but that's up to you) 1 (or so) tsp olive oil 1/4 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper (lemon pepper would also be good) 1 tsp fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup white wine
Prepare the vegetables and base first, since this will take longer—I had pasta and very lightly sautéed some fresh green beans and summer squash.
Remove the small side muscle from the scallops if you like (I forgot about this and just ate it—it gets chewier than the rest of the scallop but is alright). If they are not clean, rinse them off an pat dry. Rub the scallops with salt and pepper—mine came in a bag, so I just threw a little seasoning in the bag and shook it around a bit. Heat up a pan with the oil over fairly high heat (obviously I used cast iron, since that’s my only pan, and it does sear nicely although I’ve heard that cast iron is not ideal for seafood because it absorbs some of the oils or something, so you want to make sure to clean it properly). When the pan is quite hot, place the scallops in. Let them sizzle for a minute or two depending on how big they are (no longer!) before flipping them over or moving them at all—they should have a nice golden brown crisp outside. Flip them and cook for another minute or so, until the other side is also seared. Remove from pan and place on top of your pasta and veggies.
With the pan still on, pour in the wine and the lemon. Scrape around to get all the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the sauce it reduced a bit—mine remained pretty liquidy, and I was totally happy with that (you can also throw in some scallions or something if you like). You don’t want it to take long or your scallops will get cold. Pour over the rest of the plate, get yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy.
This is not so very different from cooking other seafood as well: salt, pepper, lemon, and I usually like lots of garlic on my fish, cooked very quickly in a hot pan. I’ve been to restaurants that have pecan-crusted halibut or other similar dishes and somehow it just doesn’t fit—pecans are too heavy for the light, soft flaky flesh. To each her own I suppose.