Alaska Scallops Seared Hot and Fast

How do you like these Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops with Wilted Arugula, Corn, Shiitake Salad & Soy Ginger Vinaigrette? They’re Alaska scallops seared hot and fast.

They’re the real deal, huh? True beauties. These scallops get around, if you know what I mean. That’s because they are wild caught Alaskan scallops. The Belle of the Ball, so to speak. Go to the finest restaurants from Bangkok to Barcelona, and you’re likely to find Alaskan scallops winking up at you in that seductive way they have. Renowned for their size, sweet flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Scallops from Alaska know how to live up to their reputation.

Of course you may not be in Bangkok or Barcelona. So you may want want to cook these lovelies on your own stove (in the privacy of you own home– wink, wink). In that case I suggest you tackle the job hot and fast. Because that’s the way scallops like it, hot and fast. Seared on the outside and succulent on the inside.

Which sounds easy doesn’t it? But I know you’ve made scallops at home before and been disappointed. How can that be? You’re a good cook. I know you are.

Still, how many times as this happened to you? You go buy the biggest scallops you can find, price be damned. You get home and you get out the good pan. You know, the shiny one– the one you paid way too much for. You slick it with just a barest hint of oil. When it’s good and hot, and begins to shimmer you gently slide those scallops into the pan. You know to let them be. You resist the urge to move them around a lot. Too much love and you won’t get that gorgeous golden brown color you saw in the photos. They’ll release themselves from the pan when they are good and ready. This much you know. So you stand there and wait. Clicking your tongs to that old Madonna tune “…Borderline, feels like I’m going to lose my mind…”.

raw scallopsYou let 2 maybe 3 minutes pass without disturbing them. Then you flip those sweethearts over.

First thing you notice is how much moisture they gave up in cooking. I mean you appreciate the facial and all. But these scallops are half the size as they started out. And another thing. Where’s that golden brown color you envied?? Yours are a creamy translucent milky color of white. But they smell done.

Maybe your pan wasn’t hot enough? So you turn the heat up and that’s when it happens. You make your fatal error. Sound Buzzer. End Of Game.

You’ve blown it. Your scallops are going to be over-cooked and rubbery. In trying to achieve that perfect crackly golden exterior, you over-cooked your $22.50 a pound monsters. You wanted crisp on the outside, but succulent in the inside. But it’s too late. I’m sorry. They’re ruined.

Don’t fret. Like I said you ARE a good cook. This problem could happen to any one of us– because it is not your fault! In fact it’s a conspiracy. I know because little green men in Roswell, New Mexico told me so!

There’s a dirty little secret out there in seafood-land. It’s called STP. No, it’s not motor oil. But to a connoisseur it’s nearly as bad. Sodium tripolyphosphate.

It’s the bugger responsible for that metallic taste and it’s what keeps your scallops from browning up properly.

As far as I can tell, the additive was originally designed to get scallops to absorb water. It keeps frozen scallops from drying out during the freezing and thawing process. It is routinely added to scallops frozen at sea. But nowadays STP is often added to non-frozen (fresh??) scallops prior to soaking them in water as a way of causing them to absorb the water and increase their weight. Heavier scallops cost more…

Of course not all scallops are pumped up in this manner. “Alaska Scallops are hand-shucked and frozen within hours, ensuring their just-caught flavor and texture. Packed on board without the use of chemicals or preservatives, Alaska Scallop fishermen are able to consistently deliver product which lives up to its reputation for flavor and freshness. And because the Alaska Scallop fishery is conservatively managed and tightly regulated, a consistent supply of high-quality seafood is assured, year after year.”

Yeah. I got that quote from Alaska Seafood’s (ASMI) website because I wanted you to know that there is a difference. Fresh or frozen, not all scallops are the same. I know because I was recently invited to visit Alaska and learn all about the tasty tid-bits that come from the pristine waters of Alaska.

I’m also traveling to San Fransisco to attend the Foodbuzz Festival. I’ll be hanging around the Alaska Seafood booth in the Tasting Pavilion on Saturday to share my experiences fishing in Alaska. If you’re going to be there, look for me.

In the meantime, here’s what I did with the beautiful Alaskan scallops ASMI sent me. GREG

Sea Scallops SearedSeared Jumbo Sea Scallops with Wilted Arugula, Corn, Shiitake Salad & Soy Ginger Vinaigrette serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 green onions white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
  • 2 clv garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T peeled & chopped ginger
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 c plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 10 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clv garlic, peeled & minced
  • 2 T dry vermouth
  • 1 pn salt, plus more for seasoning as needed
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 c loosely packed arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 t freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 large “dry” sea scallops
  • 1 T toasted sesame seed

Make the vinaigrette: Blend the first 7 ingredients together in a blener or food processor. With machine running, gradually add 1/4 cup vegetable oil and process until well emulsified. Cover and let sit 30 minutes for the flavors to come together. May be prepared 1 day ahead kept refrigerated. Let it come to room temperature before using.

Make the salad: Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, and minced garlic stirring often until the mushrooms release their liquid. Continue cooking stirring often until the pan becomes nearly dry again and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 6 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with vermouth. Add a pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and arugula. Stir to slightly wilt. Remove from heat. Stir in raw corn kernels. Set aside in a warm place.

Sear the scallops: Season the scallops generously with salt and pepper. Place a non stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the scallops and sear for 2 1/2 minutes, without moving them around. When the bottoms of the scallops look nicely browned and they release themselves from the pan turn them over and sear the other side for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the scallops to a platter lined with paper towels to blot some of the oil.

To serve: Toss the salad with a bit of vinaigrette. Place some on each of 4 serving plates. Top with a scallop. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.