Give your scallops special treatment
Dan Bolyard/courtesy photo - Let your scallops have a little time to dry to help them achieve the golden-brown quality.
My introduction to the proper cooking of scallops came in chef school. Up until then, I had treated them like any other seafood, not knowing about the pan-frying technique that gives the scallop a bit of a crunch in its otherwise soft and sweet texture.
I suspect that the scallops the school got were “dry” ones that were not treated with chemical additives, which allow them to have a longer shelf-life and cause them to take on additional moisture. This allows them to brown much more readily. The only scallops I've been able to find in the Basin are the wet kind, which were treated with a safe-to-eat chemical, but make frying them to a golden brown much harder.
The easiest way to dry out those wet scallops is to place them on a few layers of paper towels, lightly salt them, and let them sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. I'd still pat them dry after this procedure.
Have you eaten scallops before and come across a bit that is tough and chewy? That would be the tendon. Before cooking them, just peel it away and throw out.
- 1 1/2 pounds large scallops, tendons removed
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Place scallops on rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Place more towels on top of scallops and press gently on towel to blot liquid. Change out towels and sprinkle scallops with salt. Let scallops sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes while towels absorb moisture. Remove scallops from paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer, flat side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops and continue to cook. Baste each one with melted butter until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer. Remove smaller scallops first, as they will be cooked through first. Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter.