Sweet Salty Sour Spicy Seared Scallops. I think that says it all.
“Dry” scallops (also called diver or day boat scallops) aren’t treated with the chemical known as STP which causes them to absorb extra water. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to achieve a nice brown crust when searing STP treated scallops.
- 4–6 dried red chiles (such as arbol) to taste
- 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ⅓ cup molasses
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 5 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- 1 (2‑inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
- 8 large “dry” sea scallops (shelled and prepped) at room temperature
- fine sea salt (as needed for seasoning)
- freshly cracked black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
- 2 teaspoon canola oil (or other mild flavored oil with high smoke point)
- cilantro leaves (as garnish)
In a small skillet, toast the chiles, coriander seeds, anise seeds and cumin seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a fairly fine powder. Transfer the ground spices to a small saucepan and stir in the sugar, lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger.
Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and cook over low heat until reduced to a thick and syrupy *4 to 5 ounces, about 25 to 30 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Set aside in a warm place.
When you’re ready to sear the room temperature scallops pat them very dry with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and let it heat until it shimmers but is not yet smoking. Swirl the skillet to coat and pour off excess oil. Add the scallops in a single layer, do not crowd the skillet, work in batches if necessary. The scallops should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Cook, pressing down lightly on the scallops with a spatula to ensure an even browning if they don’t sit flat, for 2–3 minutes. Do not disturb them or peek at them during this time. Flip the scallops and repeat the pressing if necessary. Cook for an additional minute or so. Remove the scallops from the pan placing each one onto a small warm plate. Dress each scallop with a spoonful of the warm (not hot) sauce (to taste, remember it’s spicy) and garnish with a few small cilantro leaves.
*This recipe makes more sauce than is needed for eight scallops. You could probably dress 24 large scallops with this amount of sauce. Cover and refrigerate any unused sauce up to 1 week.