One of the many reasons people enjoy eating out, is that they find they can enjoy dishes that are either way too complex to try to make at home, OR, try as they might, they just can’t seem to duplicate the quality, taste or appearance of a truly exceptional dish they’ve had eating “out”.
The pros sure can make it look easy.
One of the “mysteries” that Chef Paul would like to unlock for his many guests that have enjoyed his Sea Scallops dishes over the years, is just how you cook them to make them… well, perfect.
It starts with purchasing the right scallops.
Just what are the right scallops?
First of all, let’s begin by noting that these are SEA scallops we’re talking about. The big ones.
Bay scallops, are the little ones.
Second, while scallops live in the ocean’s waters, once shucked from their shells and packaged for distribution to the consumers of these delicious bivalve mollusks, water, specifically water with a phosphate solution that whitens them and makes them absorb more liquid is NOT what any great Chef would prefer.
Dry pack scallops, those packaged without this solution, are more “natural” colored, firm, and because they’re not “water-logged”, are meaty and sear exceptionally well.
You may occasionally hear them being referred to as Diver or day Boat Scallops (meaning that they’re hand harvested).
And generally, that is true.
Does size matter?
Scallops, like shrimp, are sorted and marketed by how many scallops there are to a pound. 10/15 size would mean that there are somewhere between 10 to 15 scallops to a pound.
And that’s a good size.
Like that beautiful color? That sweet, succulent, caramelized crust taste, a nice size?
Well, the Chef bought right and cooked right.
So…what’s the cooking “secret”?
A lot, but don’t overdo it either.
Start by placing your “well bought” sea scallops on a dry surface, then pat lightly with an absorbent paper towel on both sides.
Season them also on both sides with sea salt and freshly, but finely ground, pepper.
Those of you who might think that a Chef might place a pat of flavorful butter in a fry pan get this one wrong.
Butter, especially American butter is about 15% water, milk solids and salt.
It may look and smell wonderful while dancing around in a hot, frying pan, sizzling and foaming away, but if you place a scallop in that mess, you’re in for trouble.
Remember the water part of this message?
Your scallop, while it will cook, won’t sear to the color you’re craving as quickly as it needs to, before it’s OVER cooked.
More importantly, your scallops will basically “steam” in the butter juices and become tough,
Use a high heat “neutral” oil instead.
That would be a canola, vegetable or peanut oil. Olive oil is a 2nd option
Place a light “film” of oil in a well-seasoned fry pan or alternatively (for most of you at home), a non-stick fry pan, and turn the heat up….up to medium high to nearly high.
When you see a “swirling glaze” of shimmer in the oil on the surface on the pan and just a “hint” of smoke, THAT’S when you’re going to add your sea scallops.
Watch our how-to right from the range at CUISINE here…Searing Your Scallops
But wait, before you add them, there’s one more VERY professional tip.
Don’t place them near one another. They need to be about 2 inches apart.
Steam is water and, going back to the whole butter thing, water is your enemy when it comes to cooking scallops.
Water means tough scallops and no real flavor.
So, you’ve followed Chefs advice so far, now sear each one about 2 to 3 minutes one each side.
Here’s what they should look like… When to turn your scallops over
DON’T OVER COOK THEM.
And that, is about as good as it gets.
We asked Chef Paul what was is inspiration for his latest Sea Scallop creation, which is currently on the menu.
“The inspiration for our scallop dish originally came from a visit to NYC. I dined at a restaurant called Jean-George (Chef Jean-George Vongerichten) and had his scallop dish there.
He seared it with roasted cauliflower, red grapes, pepitas and capers.
I have since modeled a vegan dish similar to this. But I really enjoyed the sweetness of the seared scallop and I knew, and I have since confirmed, that the flavor of the scallop could withhold those sweet, umami and sharp vinegar flavors.
I started thinking of ways to serve the scallops with different combinations of flavors.
I really enjoy the earthiness of the beet dust, the sweetness of the corn and the acidity of the citrus butter sauce.
When corn is not in season I will sometimes replace the corn with mango.”
It’s insights like this, combined with the experience of buying right and cooking right, which makes every scallop dish that Chef Paul creates, to be one which endures.
One which is now easy to understand but still, so very hard to duplicate.