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Sauteed Scallops

Updated on October 24, 2020
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Lee has a degree in philosophy, but when cooking, Lee is more like an experimental scientist than an abstract thinker. Loves new ideas.

Seared, Fried, Sauteed - Same

Whatever you decide to call it, that's what we are going to do to these scallops. Or maybe we should say that we are going to do all three of things at the same time. But it is the scallops, luscious lumps of seafood, that count. And are they going to be delicious!

These are sea scallops, larger than bay scallops. Sea scallops are expensive, more expensive than bay scallops not just per scallop but by unit of weight. The greater size perhaps offers more culinary opportunities, or maybe it is just that bay scallops are more abundant. It doesn't take many sea scallops to make a great meal, so take the plunge once in a while. You will be rewarded. (We will try to treat bay scallops on another occasion).

We start here with some EVOO in a sturdy skillet. The olive oil adds flavor as well as enabling us to pry the scallops from the hot skillet while we are sauteing them. The olive oil and that liquid produced by the scallops as they are searing blend under the high heat and turn a beautiful brown.



These have been seared for four or five minutes over a high flame on a gas stove, and then turned over with a metal spatula. We started with both the olive oil and the scallops in the pan, but some prefer to heat the skillet hot with the olive oil in it and then add the scallops.

We can eat scallops raw, and often do as sashimi, at least in the better sushi bars. So the point of the searing is not really to cook them but to add color and to take advantage of the magic that is produced by the hot blending of the scallop juices and the EVOO. And don't underestimate the value of that color: visual appeal is a very important aspect of the culinary art. We are artists here.


Here they are after another four or five minutes. See what I mean about color? Most appealing.

Throw is some capers at this point, after we have taken the skillet off of the fire. They go wonderfully well with the scallops, a distinctive salty taste added to the sea-essence of the scallops.

These are ready to go.

Incidentally, scallops can also be grilled. We plan to try that next time. Instead of the crusty brown bits, we would have attractive grill marks.


One option -- a very good option -- is to make the sauteed scallops the star attraction in a salad.

Here we have mixed baby greens, some grilled peppers, a grilled tomato, a couple of marinated artichoke hearts, and -- of course -- the sauteed scallops and capers. Coarse ground salt and coarse ground black pepper.

The dressing: more EVOO, and lime juice produced by reaming a half of a lime with a juicer. Plus one more ingredient -- we have added a tablespoon of water to the skillet and loosened some of the browned blend of EVOO and scallop liquids adhering to the skillet after the sauteing is done. Pour this over the salad as well.

There are many other options for these scallops. We could add them to pasta sauce, for example, and serve them over linguine. We can add butter and garlic to the skillet and create a delicious sauce that we can pour together with the scallops over rice. Speaking of rice, scallops can be added to any number of oriental sauces, including the tradition black bean sauce. They can also be added to Asian Rice Noodle Soup.


Parting facts

Scallops are those things that live inside the shells which are the logo of Royal Dutch Shell, which is better known as Shell Oil Corporation (the founder's father started by selling seashells in London).

Scallops are closely related to oysters -- closely related biologically and culinarily. There are two basic types of scallops: Bay scallops and Sea scallops, which are larger. Sea scallops are found, in one species or another, in all of the oceans of the world.

At first appearance, that shell would seem to make the scallop invulnerable, but in fact the scallop has predators and the scallop is very wary of them. One of the most amazing things I have read about scallops is that "“All possess a series of 100 blue eyes, embedded on the edge of the mantle of their upper and lower valves that can distinguish between light and darkness.” Hard to imagine that: 100 blue eyes. I knew that scallops were exotic creatures, despite the regular and familiar shape of their shells, but the eye thing took me by surprise.

Apparently scallops need so many eyes because the eyes are only capable of detecting variations in the surrounding light, as when a shadow is cast by a predator coming to eat them. In fact, scallops are highly sensitive to variations in light and also to vibrations, water movement, and to certain chemicals. Predators include sea stars, crabs, and snails. In the end, the 100 blue eyes provide pretty good protection, given the huge range of scallops in the world's oceans.

Most scallops live in the oceans of the Indo-Pacific region. Apparently they are rather adaptable, though they do not live long lives. Some species of scallop live in very narrow ecological niches, but most are opportunistic and can live under a wide variety of conditions.

Real meal

Real Meal. Unlike fancy food mags, where images are hyped and food itself is secondary, all pix shown here are from a real meal, prepared and eaten by me and my friends. No throwing anything away till perfection is achieved. This is the real deal --- a Real Meal.


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