I selected scallops as my second ingredient because they scare me. I have a fair amount of experience cooking chicken, beef, and pork, but I get nervous anytime I cook a new fish. The first time I prepared uncooked shrimp, I paced my kitchen checking the timer every 45 seconds.
Scallops are mollusks. We eat the white muscle that opens and closes the scallops two shells. They can be found in all of the world’s oceans but most wild scallop fisheries are found of the coasts of the Northeastern United States, Eastern Canada, and Japan. Sea and bay scallops are in season October through March. However, frozen sea scallops are available all year round.
When selecting scallops, fresh scallops should have white firm flesh with no browning. They should be odorless or smell slightly sweet. They can be refrigerated for up to two days after purchase. Frozen scallops should be solid and shiny and the inside of the packaging should be free of frost.
Before going to Whole Foods to purchase my scallops, did a little reading on the America’s Test Kitchen website. Their site explained it is preferable to buy dry scallops. Wet scallops are are chemically treated with a solution of water and sodium tripolyphosphate. This solution is used to increase shelf life and retain moisture. I asked the man who assisted me if the scallops I was purchasing were wet of dry. Apparently, they were wet. I thought for sure that Whole Foods would have sold dry scallops; maybe dry scallops are fairly hard to come by?
Pan seared and sashimi are my two favorite ways to enjoy scallops. And because I have no desire to try and prepare sashimi at home, I decided to pan sear my scallops. After a bit of browsing, I settled on a recipe for Lime Seared Scallops with Spinach and Candied Walnuts from the Whole Foods website. I was in love with the recipe after first sight. A simple marinade, sautéed spinach, and candied nuts, I was sold.
The recipe serves six, but I decided to half it. I began by dicing the shallot (1 clove), garlic (1 clove) and tarragon (1/2 tsp) for the marinade.
These Ingredients were placed in a shallow baking dish along with the olive oil (2 tsp). I then juiced half a lime and added the scallops (1 lb) to the marinade. I gently turned the scallops a few times to ensure they were fully coated.
Right as I was putting the scallops in the fridge to marinate, I realized I had forgotten the lime zest. I decided not to sweat it and grated the zest (1/2 tsp) right on top of the scallops. I do not have the best grater, so I spend a good five minutes banging the zest out of my grater.
While the scallops were marinating in the fridge (20 minutes), I candied the walnuts. I did not make a half batch of nuts because candying an 1/8 of a cup of nuts seemed silly. Despite my attempts to continuously shake the nuts, I had to get out a wooden spoon and stir them to prevent a giant nut cluster from forming.
Once the nuts were finished, I prepared a paper towel mat to dry the scallops before cooking. Gently patting the scallops dry before cooking allows the scallops to gain a nice brown crust from the direct heat.
After the scallops were dry, I placed 2 teaspoons of oil in the pan brought it to medium heat. I placed the scallops in the pan for 2 1/2 minutes before turning them with tongs and cooking them on the other side for the same amount of time. Once cooked, I immediately placed the scallops on a covered plate to keep warm.
I cooked my scallops in two batches because America’s Test Kitchen said not to let the scallops touch when cooking and I wanted plenty of room to make turning them easy. I probably could have gotten them all in one pan if I had worked from the outside in when initially placing them in the pan.
Once all the scallops were cooked, I attempted to deglaze the pan with lime juice (juice of 1/2 a lime) like the recipe says. However, I failed miserably. The contents of my pan were charred and looked inedible. There was no way I was putting it on my scallops.
I believe the deglazing failed for one and or all of the following reasons. 1. I did not have enough lime juice for the job. 2. I did not remove the bits of tarragon, garlic, and shallot from the scallops before they went in the pan. 3. My pan got too hot. I used my hottest burner for the job and had it hot for a while with the two batches. However, America’s Test Kitchen recommends using high heat when searing scallops. To be honest, I am not sure what is the best course of action. Maybe next time I will use a recipe that calls for making a sauce in a separate pan.
After the deglazing debacle, I cut my losses, washed the pan, and prepared the spinach. I placed a splash of olive oil (approximately 1 tsp) in the pan I brought to medium-low heat and sautéed 1 clove of chopped garlic.
Once the garlic had turned light brown, I added 1 package of baby spinach (5 oz) to the pan, turning it until all the spinach had wilted. I am always amazed by how much spinach cooks down.
Once wilted, I turned off the heat, added a few grinds of salt and pepper, and plated the spinach, scallops and nuts.
I thought the scallops came out pretty well. I would give them a B. I did not taste any lime but that is probably due to the fact I botched the sauce. Next time I make scallops, I will likely prepare a risotto to fill out the meal. The spinach and the nuts were both good. Now that I have candied nuts stovetop; I am sure I will be including them in dishes any chance I get.