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All too often, when dining out, I find myself ordering seared scallops and I wind up being dismayed at how much such a simple dish costs. Granted, sea scallops in the market are quite expensive, but why pay so much in a restaurant for something that is so simple and quick to prepare at home.

Last Friday, I made them for the first time at home and thought they were as good as almost any I had ever had out. The key to searing them correctly is patience: leave them alone after they hit the pan. Don’t move them or shake the pan. Just let them take on a nice sear, which they will after approximately 3 minutes. Then flip them and do the same: nothing, but wait maybe another 2 or 3 minutes.

Sautéed Sea Scallops
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large sea scallops (about 1 pound), abductor muscle removed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
zest of 1 small lemon
Season the scallops with salt and pepper.

The ingredients

The ingredients

Make sure to dry the scallops thoroughly with paper towels. If they are wet, they will not brown.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium high. When the butter stops sizzling, place the scallops vertically in the pan, leaving some space between each one. Use a 10” or 12” skillet to avoid overcrowding. As scallops have a tendency to stick, this is one time I recommend using a non-stick pan.

Scallops seared first side

Scallops seared first side

When the first side has seared and browned, after about 3 minutes, turn them over to the other side and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until nicely browned. The scallops should be firm to the touch.

Remove the scallops from the pan and keep warm.

Add the vermouth to the pan scraping up any brown bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the alcohol evaporate, about 1 minute.

The pan sauce

The pan sauce

Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the chopped onion. Sauté over medium heat until the onions have softened, about 1 or 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and return the scallops and any of their juices to the pan, along with the parsley and lemon zest. Turn the scallops to coat them with the sauce in the pan and serve.

For a professional recipe and instructional video, you may want to follow this link to the Fine Cooking website.

Wine Pairing: Garganega, Soave, Chardonnay

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