Sometimes it takes a trip away from home to realize just how complacent you’ve become. We live in a dense urban area where I can literally walk to everything (fishmonger, hardware store, library …) within 2 miles of our home with the local market being a mere 2 blocks away. Apparently this urban lap of luxury has not only spoiled me but also altered my thinking. Nope, I’m not a member of some hipster cult although I must admit that I have more than my fair share of skinny jeans (they’re easier to tuck into boots for slogging through mud at the dog park :)) but I have noticed that if I do forget an ingredient,
the poor put-upon hubby I just have to trudge the 2 blocks to the market to fill in any ingredient gaps. Now before you stone me for complaining about convenience, the problem with such luxury is it can easily turn into complacency cuz sometimes by “making do” you find a new flavor combination that’s better than the original, something fresh and unexpected. While on holiday in Kauai, we gorged ourselves on Hawaiian delights like laulau (salted butterfish and pork or chicken with spinach and steamed in a wrapping of taro and ti leaves), poke (sort of a sashimi salad seasoned with soy sauce, Maui onions, and sesame oil in its simplest form), and shaved ice (finely shaved ice with a scoop of luscious ice cream hidden in the bottom flavored with syrups, condensed milk and toppings like azuki beans, lychee, or even agar agar jellies). Interestingly, some of the best places to get poke and even hot plate lunches were the local fish markets that were popular with locals and tourists alike and of course, while you’re drooling over the display cases filled with poke you can’t help but check out all that succulent fresh fish, or at least I can’t. So, besides some delectable poke, we also returned to our little cottage with some escolar ready to be seared with a lemon-brown butter sauce until I realized that we had no lemons.
Instead of driving back out to the market (past a little pasture of micro-ponies, the small beige fluffy blob to the right above the watermark is a sheep!), I decided that the disappointingly underripe pineapple that was too sour for piña coladas (even in paradise fruit has a hard time ripening in the winter :() would have a good level of acidity to cut through the richness of the escolar and butter. And it was delicious, tangy, slightly sweet, with a nutty richness from the browned butter. So … why does this recipe have “scallops” in the title? Unfortunately, my local fishmonger‘s Hawaiian shipment hadn’t arrived yet but they did have sweet, toothsome, never frozen sea scallops beckoning enticingly to me from the display case. Sold. And, as positive reinforcement for improvising, the inherent sweetness of the scallops are really enhanced by that piquant pineapple.
Good things to know:
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
kill endangered turtles 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.
1 tbsp canola oil, plus extra as needed for searing scallops
1 1/2 lb sea scallops ~24 scallops, I used diver scallops
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
1/4 c pineapple juice
Season scallops with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a large skillet over high heat till it shimmers and a drop of water evaporates in a second. Sear scallops in batches ~5-6 per skillet, ~2 minutes per side depending on how big your scallops are, adding additional oil as needed. Don’t crowd the skillet and try to cook everything at once cuz instead of getting a nice brown sear you will effectively steam them and end up with wimpy beigey scallops 😦 Remove from skillet and set aside in a warming drawer or a plate tented with foil. Turn down heat to medium and deglaze skillet with rum. Add butter and sauté garlic till golden. Stir in pineapple juice and return any accumulated juices from the scallops. Over high heat reduce liquid by half. Divide scallops and sauce between plates. Makes 4 servings.
**In case you’re wondering about the “grading” scale, apparently the recipe analysis website that I use grades each ingredient (A-F) and it’s not weighted so 1 pound of butter has the same “F” value as 2 tbsp. Apparently alcohol is a no-no too. Le sigh.