RECIPE: Pan-Seared Scallops
This recipe is Paleo, Gluten-Free
Note: Pan-seared scallops are easier to make than they look: you can make show-stopper scallops with a pan sauce in less than 15 minutes. Add bread, salad, and a bottle of chilled sparkling mead for a completely elegant dinner date at home. My version uses mead, saffron, and butter, but you can customize the flavors of this dish at three different points of the preparation: seasoning, basting, and making the pan sauce. So many flavor combinations would work wonderfully with the sweet rich flavors of scallops and butter, depending on what mead you have at hand.
Tools: a heavy non-stick sauté pan, tongs
Time: 15 min
Hands-on: 15 min
Yield: you choose
Fresh sea scallops, 3 per person as an appetizer; 6 per person as an entrée
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp ground saffron
1/4 cup mead
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Buy “dry” scallops, not “wet” scallops (which have chemical additives). Pat them dry. If the little muscle on the side has not been removed for you, simply pull it off with your fingers. Sprinkle the scallops generously with salt and pepper or any preferred seasoning. Get creative with your spice cupboard: Try a little cumin or lime zest, or smoked paprika.
2. Pick a heavy skillet that will fit the number of scallops you are cooking – you want to make sure you can get them all in the pan with plenty of space between each – then swirl in a bit of butter, and heat the pan over medium-high heat until it’s very hot. Gently place your seasoned scallops in the pan, and cook them without moving them until they are deeply browned underneath, about three minutes.
3. Use tongs to carefully turn the scallops, and add a generous pat of butter to the pan along with your aromatic ingredient(s) of choice. Choose whatever aromatic you think would best complement your seasoning and your mead. You could use a dried chili pepper or a sprig of fresh herbs, or some capers, or a slice of citrus. Or a pinch of saffron. Use a spoon or brush to baste the scallops with the butter continuously while they finish cooking, about three minutes longer. Do not overcook.
4. Make a pan sauce: Pull the scallops from the pan and set them on your serving plate. Add a splash of mead to the butter in the pan, or you could instead use lemon juice, white wine, stock, or orange juice, depending on what flavor you think would work best with your seasoning and basting ingredients. For Chrissie’s version, use 1/4 cup mead, 1/4 tsp saffron, and a grinding of black pepper. Give the sauce a good stir over medium heat, then remove from the heat. Add just a bit more cold butter to finish and some chopped fresh herbs for garnish (optional). Pour the sauce around the scallops on your plate and you’ve got a show-stopping scallop dish ready to serve.
Pairing Suggestions: The sweetness of the scallops is mirrored and amplified by the sweet honey aromas of any mead. Pair Chrissie’s saffron variation with chilled Die Hochland Imker sparkling mead from Austria, or an off-dry or semisweet traditional mead. Or depending on what you do with the seasonings, any number of different melomels could be nice pairings too. Sour Orange Blossom Mead from Golden Coast Mead in Oceanside, California, is off-dry and sparkling at 12% ABV, with strong citrusy aromas of orange marmalade, and pairs beautifully with light seafood and poultry dishes.