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Scallops with lemon, tarragon and saffron dressing

Updated on August 2, 2012

A simple dish that will even impress a celebrity chef

I found this recipe in a German gourmet magazine years ago and it has become one of my signature dishes. The ingredients are not cheap but this simple meal can be prepared in minutes and is bound to impress any foodie.

Scallops with quinoa.
Scallops with quinoa. | Source
5 stars from 2 ratings of Scallops with lemon, tarragon and saffron dressing

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 25 min
Yields: Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course


  • 1 pound Scallops
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil, for frying
  • 1/2 Lemon, zest & juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Vegetable stock
  • 1 sachet (125 mg) Saffron, powdered
  • 4 Tbsp. Olive Oil, for the marinade
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh Tarragon, chopped
  • Pepper & salt, to taste
  • A few Tarragon twigs, for garnish

The secret to searing scallops

To get a golden crust first pat the scallops with paper towel to dry them. Then place them in a hot pan over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil and leave them there - without touching or turning them - for approx. 2 - 3 minutes. That's what creates that perfect crust. It's also important to not crowd your pan - otherwise the scallops steam instead of sear.

Don't crowd the pan, otherwise your scallops will steam and not get a crust.
Don't crowd the pan, otherwise your scallops will steam and not get a crust. | Source


Only add the tarragon right at the end.
Only add the tarragon right at the end. | Source
  1. Make a marinade of the following: Lemon juice & zest, vegetable stock, saffron, salt & pepper and olive oil (do not add the tarragon yet). Mix well and set aside.
  2. Pat the scallops dry and season with salt.
  3. Sear scallops for 2-3 minutes per side (make sure you don't crowd the pan).
  4. Add chopped tarragon to the marinade and pour over seared scallops. Serve immediately.
  5. Garnish with tarragon twigs.
  6. Serve with quinoa or rice.

Add the marinade to the pan


Additional information:

Leftovers can be refrigerated and eaten cold on a fancy salad platter.

For a cheaper version: Scallops can be substituted with haddock, cod cheeks or chicken breast (cooking times must be adjusted accordingly).

Saffron is the world's most expensive spice so you might be shocked about it's price. However only a tiny quantity is required for this recipe (1 packet usually contains several sachets). If you can't find powdered saffron use saffron strings instead.

Tarragon freezes well. As this recipe only requires a few twigs any leftovers should be frozen for further use.

Tarragon & saffron

Tarragon & saffron, not your usual ingredients but definitely worth a try.
Tarragon & saffron, not your usual ingredients but definitely worth a try. | Source


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    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Thanks for all your kind comments. Guess what's for dinner tomorrow night.....

      As mentioned in the recipe, if you can't find scallops or they are too expensive, try this out with some cod cheeks, some firm fish that you can pan frie easily without flaking or chicken pieces (cooking time will have to be increased accordingly). I guess this would also be good with shrimps...

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Scallops are one of my most favorite foods. Thanks for this recipe! :)

    • RolyRetro profile image

      RolyRetro 5 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

      I love scallops, will be heading down to the local farmers market to see if I can track down some for this recipe.



    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This looks awesome. My hubby loves scallops, so this could be on the menu very soon. (Sad that they are sometimes expensive, even though we live right by the sea.)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The top photo of the finished plate is superb! Rated Up and more. Thanks also for the tip on freezing tarragon.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      What time is dinner? Looks great! I will share this!