Seared Scallops


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

Sautéed Scallops with Rosemary and Lemon


After a week of indulging in more mundane fare like grilled steaks and summer corn, hot dogs with baked beans, and roast chicken, I thought it was time to get back into the kitchen and cook something new. We both wanted that something to be light and and my new schedule required it to be quick to prepare. Looking for a recipe to meet these requirements, I turned to one of Marcella Hazan’s lesser known books, Marcella’s Italian Kitchen. Still widely available online, I find it a more personal book than her better known and widely acclaimed Classic Italian Cooking volumes.

The recipe I chose for dinner last night was one of two in the book for scallops, “Sautéed Scallops with Rosemary and Lemon.” Hazan describes her dish as “simple and very fragrant,” which, in my opinion, is an understatement. The recipe calls for a minimum of ingredients and, including prep time, can be on the table in fewer than thirty minutes That’s simple. But what makes this dish a keeper is its unctuous sauce, redolent with fresh rosemary, pale-gold garlic, and fresh lemon juice. It makes a perfect first course for a more formal dinner or, served with plain rice or crusty bread, an elegant entree for a weekday supper.

If you choose to make this dish for two, you can reduce the amount of scallops. However, I would not cut back on the recipe’s other ingredients, as they yield a sauce so delicious you may find yourselves, like we did, licking your plates to savor every last drop.

To heighten the citrus factor, I used the zest of one lemon, which I added to the pan along with the juice.

Sautéed Scallops with Rosemary and Lemon
Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen

1.5 pounds small bay scallops
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (Use the best quality you have available.)
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin
1.5 teaspoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)

The ingredients prepped
The ingredients, prepped

Wash and, using a towel, thoroughly pat dry the scallops.

Choose a skillet large enough to eventually accommodate the scallops in a single layer. Start by adding the olive oil and sliced garlic to the empty skillet and place over medium heat.

As soon as the garlic turns a pale gold, add the rosemary and stir quickly. (Do not let the garlic turn brown or it will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the scallops.)

The garlic, lightly gold
The garlic, lightly gold

Add the scallops, and season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, until the scallops change from translucent to a flat white.

The final sautee
The final sauté

Add the lemon juice and zest, turn up the heat as high as possible, stir once or twice, then transfer to warm plates and coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: Garganega, Soave, Pinot Grigio