These days, were you to go on a programme such as Masterchef and cook scallops any way other than searing in a hot pan, you would be met with derision. It wasn't always thus. I remember asking a chef some decades ago how one should cook them. Gently in a lot of butter was the answer. While the wee bit of caramelisation certainly enhances their innate sweetness, it's not necessarily the best way if you have little ones or, as we'll see in the second recipe, you want to make this very expensive ingredient go further.
I hesitate slightly before describing this next part as a recipe. Essentially, you stick a lot of butter in a frying pan with a clove of crushed garlic, get it just to the foaming stage, and stir fry your (small) scallops for a minute or two until they're done. A good squeeze of lemon juice not only adds sharpness, it will stop your butter going too brown. A twist or two of pepper, and a handful of chopped parsley, and you're done. Serve with some good bread to mop up the juices.
Scallops with Garlic, Butter and Parsley
This next recipe is a favourite starter here. By cutting the scallops into smaller pieces, you make them go a long way.
Warm Salad of Scallops, Lardons and Croutons
Ingredients (per person)
2 large scallops, each cut into 4 pieces, 6 if they are very large; lardons, number to suit you depending on size; croutons, 4 – 6; 50g butter; 1 tsp freshly grated ginger; lemon juice; pepper; salad leaves and dressing of your choice. For this dish I would use a lemon vinaigrette.
Make the croutons in advance. Use bread with the crusts removed. You can make croutons in the oven or in a frying pan. Brush the bread on both sides with melted butter or olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C/Mark 4 until browned. This will take about 15 minutes. Alternatively fry them in a little melted butter or olive oil in a single layer over a medium to high heat, turning occasionally until they are browned all over. If making in advance, warm them before assembling the dish.
Prepare your serving plate with the dressed leaves. Hard fry the lardons (ie cook on a high heat), until they are browned. Set to one side and keep warm. Lower the heat to medium. Melt the butter and stir in the ginger. Cook the scallops gently for a few minutes until they are no longer opaque in the middle. Be careful not to overcook. If in doubt, taste a bit – chef’s perks. (Interestingly, I note I used the same phrase in last week's article. Funny how scallops and chef's perks seem to go together.)
When the scallops are ready, arrange the bacon, croutons and scallops on top of the leaves, then spoon over the ginger butter. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and a grating of pepper.