I have a simple summer meal for you. Seared Scallops with Succotash.
It’s a great warm weather dinner because it takes advantage of super sweet summer corn while it’s at its best. Besides there is no oven to turn on and very little hanging over a hot stove involved. The scallops are seared a mere 4 or 5 minutes. The succotash just a few moments longer. It could even be made ahead and served at room temperature. Further simplifying the preparation.
But I think its best served warm, with a cool and crisply acidic chardonnay. Which is no bother because two people working in tandem can get this meal on the table in 8 minutes flat, once the prep work is done.
Still, just because this is a quick cook meal does not mean you can get sloppy about the details. I am quite finicky about scallops.
Scallops should be served rare, if you cook them all the way through you are destroying their delicate nature. An overcooked scallop is a rubbery waste of money. But just because I won’t submit to an overcooked scallop does not mean I want it undercooked or improperly cooked either. In fact I like quite a bit of crunchy crusty searing on my scallops.
But how to best achieve this?
Well, choosing good scallops is the first step. Many scallops today are artificially pumped up and waterlogged by a chemical called STP. If possible get scallops with out this additive. The proper term for an STP free scallop is “dry”. Ask your fish monger if you are unsure. I have a whole post devoted to scallops and STP here.
Of course, sometimes you just can’t be sure if your scallops are dry or not. Especially if they have been frozen. In that case it is up to you to do the drying yourself.
Start with raw, unfrozen or thoroughly thawed scallops. Lay them on a plate lined with 3 or 4 paper towels. Lay more paper towels over the top and gently press down with the palm of your hand. Quite a lot of moisture can be removed this way. Leave them wrapped in paper towels on the counter until they come to room temperature. If they are super pumped up with STP you may need to change the paper towels a few times.
Another key step in perfectly seared scallops is this: It’s a good idea to start with scallops that are at room temperature. I never see recipes that say this. But I believe it is important, and no you won’t get food poisoning & die. Provided of course you keep a semi-clean kitchen, buy from a reputable source and cook them in a reasonable amount of time after they come to room temperature.
By following these few steps you should be able to achieve that golden crackly crust that helps define a wonderfully cooked scallop.
But cooking technique is key. When cooking scallops, the surest path to perfection is seared in a non-stick or cast iron skillet. There is a very simple, nearly foolproof way to get properly cooked scallops. Start with a very hot pan. Add a tiny amount of canola other oil with a high smoke point. You will know when the oil is hot enough when the oil seems to ripple almost imperceptibly, but is not yet smoking. Set the scallops on the skillet, and then move it into the oven at 450 degree F. Cook them 2 or 3 minutes (depending on size). Take them out of the oven, let them sit about 1 minute in the skillet, then immediately remove them from the skillet. They should be quite rare at this point. But they will continue to cook if you let them rest a few minutes before serving. This is a very easy way to cook scallops. You shouldn’t even have to flip them.
But if you are willing to do a bit more work, my favorite way to sear them is on the stove-top. And because it is summer and I don’t want to heat up the oven, this is how we will handle ours today. You may find the easy steps for this method in the recipe below. The main thing to remember is technique counts. The biggest mistakes are overcrowding and too much fussing. So work in batches and once they hit the skillet leave them be.
These perfect scallops are going to be served on a big, healthy pile of succotash. Succotash is a combination of corn kernels and beans. Sometimes other vegetables make an appearance as well. In fact I have included red bell pepper. I have also seen tomatoes and okra make regular succotash appearances. It is one of the dishes the early settlers of this country picked up from the Native Americans.
Succotash makes a great partner with these seared scallops. My version heavily features fresh sweet corn, and is my 3rd corn selection in this weeklong marathon of corn, corn and more corn.
serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 1 large leek, white and pale green parts, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2″ pieces and well rinsed
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 (15oz) can lima beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 c green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 4 ears fresh corn kernels
- 4 T chives, minced and separated
- 2 T fresh oregano, minced
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 T olive oil
- 12 large sea scallops, tough muscles removed
Make the succotash: Melt the butter in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften but is not yet colored. About 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and green beans; cook an additional 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the lima beans, corn, 2 tablespoons chives, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.
Make the scallops: Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat until very hot but not quite smoking. Add the scallops in batches to avoid crowding. Cook the scallops undisturbed on one side about 3 minutes until a nice golden crust forms. Flip them over and cook an additional minute or two until they are barely translucent in the center.
Gently reheat the succotash if necessary and serve the scallops on top. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining chives.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD