I guess I’m what you’d call an impulse shopper. Now, before visions of discount snuggies and chartreuse napkin rings go conga-ing through your head, my impulse shopping is of the grocery store variety. And while I have been known to toss a
few bag of chips in the basket, I tend to gravitate toward the produce section or the seafood case. Like a culinary magpie I’ll buy whatever looks good or out of some strange sense of pique I’ll try to make a meal out of whatever’s on sale. Sometimes it’s surprisingly good and other times let’s just say we get a varied diet…. After a quick bike ride to brunch with a pit stop for some of the best pecan sticky rolls evarrr (I exercise so I can satisfy my gustatory cravings–one epic ride involved 3 bakeries and 2 bars! :D) we stopped by one of the seafood markets across the river that’s actually an excess storefront for one of the local sushi restaurants. The plump Japanese sea scallops started whispering sweet nothings to us from the window case and that’s all she wrote. Fresh scallops have an inherent sweetness to their flesh that lends itself well to sweet or savory preparations so why not embrace them both with a reduction sauce composed of chicken broth and port wine? Don’t worry, reduction sauce may sound scary but it’s basically just cooking your ingredients down until they’re a concentrated punch of flavor that you drizzle over the plate. No skill, just patience and having your ingredients ready beforehand are all that’s necessary. For reals. We paired this with some kale and this summer’s harvest of purple potatoes braised in chicken broth and rendered pancetta but it would also go well with summer squash, parsley and preserved lemon risotto or whatever your favorite starch may be.
A few pointers:
1) Scallops live on the sandy sea ocean floor and actually dig themselves into the sand so they can filter for food around them so um, they can get pretty gritty and sandy. I like to soak my scallops in a little water for 5 minutes then gently rinse them off to make sure I get all the sand out. Diver scallops which are hand harvested by well, divers, tend to be less sandy than scallops that are caught by dredging where they drag a net across the ocean floor and essentially scoop up whatever’s inside.
2) The part of the scallop that tastes so sweet and toothy is actually the cylindrical adductor muscle that allows it to close its shell. Sometimes the ligament (used for opening the shell) that attaches to the muscle and looks like a little white tail is still connected when you bring them home so just cut it off as it becomes very tough and fibrous once cooked.
3) How can I tell when my scallops are done? Like other seafood, scallops go from being translucent to opaque when cooked but also the texture goes from being mushy to springy so watch your scallops and give them a light poke, they should feel like poking a firm muscle when cooked. Yeah, yeah, insert off color jokes here 🙂
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
10 oz scallops, rinsed and ligaments removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 shallot, finely sliced
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c port wine (I used ruby port but tawny works great too)
1/2 c low-salt chicken stock
In a small pot melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot when foam subsides ~30 seconds and sauté till tender and golden ~2-3 minutes. Increase heat to med-hi and deglaze pan with port and simmer till it’s reduced to 1/2 of the original volume ~10-2 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer till reduced to 1/2 of volume. If you want your sauce thicker so it doesn’t slide toward the depression in the center of your plate just keep on reducing it until it’s to the consistency you want, just be careful as it may taste salty from the water loss. Remove from heat and scoop out shallot slices with a slotted spoon. Set aside in pot till scallops are done.
Season scallops with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat till aromatic but not smoking ~30 seconds. Place scallops on the skillet making sure not to crowd them ~in a 9 inch skillet I like to leave 2-3 inches between each scallop.
This will keep the skillet hot so you can brown them instead of steaming them. Take a sip of your favorite cocktail and don’t touch them letting them brown happily unmolested. When they are opaque halfway up from the skillet ~1-2 minutes (depending on how big your scallops are), flip them over and brown the other side ~1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Repeat with remaining scallops, you may have to add more oil (and refill your drink :)) to the pan to prevent sticking.
Pour ~1-2 tbsp sauce over scallops and Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 3 servings, I know, it’s a weird number but a certain someone likes leftovers for his lunch bento.