11-5: Lemon Pepper Scallops

Hey, y’all. Took a month or two off (I need SOME sort of summer vacation now that I’m not a teacher anymore), but as I’ve said before, I’m not going to let this die. Even though I haven’t been actively writing and publishing, I’ve still been cooking and photographing–I’ll get caught up here soon. Thanks for sticking around. 🙂

Here’s one I cooked a little while ago, but never finished writing–11-5: Lemon Pepper Scallops. My husband Adam LOVES seafood and at the start of this summer, we had decided we were going to try to knock out more of the Fish and Beef chapters of the book over the warm months. I can’t say that vow has worked out (I don’t think any of the ones in the queue are either one of those), but here’s a vestige of what was to be.

I’m gonna tell you right now–I can do a LOT of things in the kitchen, but poaching is my white whale. I always have a REALLY hard time with it (see 5-4: Eggs Benedict for an example of that), and I’ve yet to conquer it. Practice makes perfect, but to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of poached seafood anyway (very 1980s). I think for this one, I’m going to use a more flavorful searing technique, which I have less of a chance of screwing up (hey, scallops ain’t cheap).

I chose to use regular (sea) scallops rather than bay scallops, mostly out of not reading the recipe very closely. Bay scallops are much smaller (and usually cheaper) than full-sized sea scallops–about 100 pieces per pound for the shallow-water bay variety versus maybe 20 to 30 for the deep-water sea variety.

The article I just linked also discusses how poaching (and other gentle cooking methods) work well for bay scallops due to their small size (cooks quickly), but can also work for the larger sea variety as well. However, I’m a BIG fan of an expertly-seared scallop, and despite their reputation for being a difficult protein to work with, I’m willing to take on the challenge.

Ingredients. Scallops were from a Costco sale (as many of the proteins from these recipes are), and what you see there is about a pound of sea scallops. Used my bottle of cooking Chardonnay (not a fan of wine drinking, but I keep it around for culinary purposes) as the dry white wine and panko bread crumbs instead of fresh bread crumbs (panko is love, panko is life).

Since I’m searing these scallops instead of poaching them, I want a screaming hot non-stick pan, some butter for flavor, and LOTS of room with which to work–pan overcrowding is never advisable. I have a big 12″, high-sided sauté pan (another shout-out to Costco) that will work perfectly. We’ll hold onto the wine and lemon juice–I’ll work them back in later.

I’m not sure how Simply Delicious intended this dish to be served, but I feel like my version is going to need an accompaniment–can’t go wrong with pasta. While prepping everything else for this dish, I went ahead and cooked some penne pasta to serve with it.

Here’s all the scallops in the pan. You need an inch or two in between each one–if they’re touching your sear won’t work as well and you’ll have a hell of a time trying to effectively flip them. The pan also needs to be screaming hot–too low and you end up steaming your scallops more than searing them (think similar to a stir-fry). Butter will end up burning if you use ONLY butter–once it’s melted, cut it with some canola or vegetable oil (something tasteless but with a high smoke point–NO olive oil) to raise the smoke/burn point.

Give the scallops a few minutes on each side to get that nice color on them–if they’re not as seared as you’d like (like some of the ones above), flip them again and let them go a bit longer. Too long however, and you’ll end up with rubbery hockey pucks. Scallops are an elegant dance–a fine balance of applying enough heat to deliver and enhance their flavor, but not too much as to ruin the delicateness.

Here’s ones with a bit more color on them, but even these could have gone a bit longer–I love when they have just a bit of crispy blackened-ness on them. Okay, so we have seared sea scallops when this WHOLE recipe was supposed to be poached bay scallops. Time to try to make some sort of attempt at reconciling all of this into some sort of resemblance to the original recipe.

Combined the wine and lemon juice in the pan I had just cooked the scallops in, and deglazed/reduced it to soak up some of those good scallop & butter flavors.

Added more butter in to the reduced wine/lemon juice, and began to melt that down. I’ve yet to rinse this pan since I started, because that would be crazy–why would you wash out all that flavor?

Sautéed the pepper rings in the reduction & butter.

Another benefit of the big pan–easy to add to. Put some of the pasta into the pan with the lemon/wine/butter sauce & the peppers, and mixed them all up. I’ve essentially turned the flavors from the original scallop recipe into a light pasta sauce.

Used a small IKEA casserole dish that looked similar to the one Simply Delicious used, and put in the sauced pasta, cooked pepper rings, and seared scallops.

Sprinkled the top with the panko bread crumbs–you can see some nice sear on a few of those scallops. I chose the best ones for the dish, and we ate the rest on their own as I finished up and placed this dish in the toaster oven/broiler (the toaster oven–a savior for hot summer days when you don’t want to heat up the whole house). My business management professor from college was right about at least one thing–toaster ovens are one of the best inventions ever.

Quick chop of fresh parsley to give it some color.

Final dish after it came out of the broiler. I’ll be honest with you guys–I think my version is probably a much tastier and modern take on the dish than the original. Still lemony, still peppery, still scallopy–but let’s agree to leave the 1980s in the past where they belong.

Grade (with my adjustments): A-