Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth

Sea scallops seared in oil require little embellishment, but sautéed fennel and saffron broth compliment their delicate nature well. So why not?

Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth 

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The proper term for an STP and additive free scallop is “dry”. Ask your fishmonger if you are unsure.

Seared Scallops with Sautéed Fennel in Saffron Broth


  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 peeled and chopped onion
  • 3 thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only, well washed and divided in half)
  • 1 peeled and chopped carrot
  • 2 cored and thinly sliced fennel bulb (divided in half)
  • ¼ teaspoon safron threads
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel pollen (can substitute ground fennel seeds)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cup fish stock (or clam juice)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4–8 jumbo “dry” sea scallops (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • ½ cup fennel-orange gremolata (optional, see recipe)


Make the broth: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, half the leeks, carrot, and half the fennel and cook, stirring often, until translucent. Add the saffron, fennel pollen, crushed red pepper flakes, and white wine. Continue cooking until the wine has almost evaporated. Add stock and bring to a simmer. 

Add bay leaf and a pinch each salt and white pepper. Reduce the heat and let the broth simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, then strain the broth. Keep warm or set aside to bring back to a simmer before serving.

Make the sautéed fennel: Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat; add remaining fennel and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add remaining leeks, season with salt and pepper, cook 5 minutes more. Stir in butter and lemon zest, adjust seasoning. Keep warm or set aside to bring back to warm before serving.

Sear the scallops: Season the scallops generously with salt and white 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 ½ 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 ½ minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the scallops to a platter lined with paper towels to blot some of the oil.

To serve: Finish the warm broth by stirring in Pernod. Place a quarter of the warm sautéed fennel in the center of each of 4 warm shallow soup bowls. Place 1 or 2 seared scallops on top of each then pour in the broth, dividing it equally between each serving. Garnish with gremolata (if using) and serve immediately.