Scallops are one of my all time favourite things to eat, or at least they are when they are cooked well and until recently that has been a rather hit and miss affair when it came to my own cooking; all too often they ended up being boiled and not seared, which is something that should never be done to these wonderful delicacies. However, I have always taken comfort in that even professional chefs can sometimes also fail in cooking them, I especially remember some rather mean sized scallops being served to us in Rye but it was not so much their small size that we took issue with but the fact that they had been seriously overcooked on both sides giving a whole new meaning to the word seared, perhaps burnt would have been a better description! On another occasion we went to one of the restaurants on the edge of London’s Borough Market and while the scallops were perfectly cooked they were stone cold. On the first occasion we crunched our way through the scallops rationalising that as it was only one of a number of starter dishes that we had ordered it simply wasn’t worth the fuss and the inevitable delay if we complained. On the latter occasion we did complain only to be told that the dish was cold because we were sitting at the entrance to the restaurant and it was cold there! However, we persisted with our complaint and eventually we were grudgingly presented with a fresh serving on red-hot plates – all of which shows that professional cooks are fallible too but it does seriously beg the question how can dishes which are so obviously wrong ever be let out of the kitchen? I would love to hear about your experiences when you complain about a dish in a restaurant. And of course for all the “bad” dishes there have been many good ones and occasionally some really excellent ones: such as the small plates of scallops that you can buy as a take away from one of the fish stalls in Borough Market or here in Glasgow where Crabshakk serves bowls of sizzling scallops which are so fabulous that I have problems in ever ordering anything else when I visit the restaurant!
So what is the secret to cooking scallops? Well it’s two-fold, the scallops need to be fresh and as dry as possible and the pan needs to be really hot before you add the oil immediately followed by the scallops and they only take a couple of minutes to cook on each side. There are many ways to cook and enjoy scallops but as is so often the case with seafood the simpler it is the better it tastes and this dish is simplicity itself.
Seared scallops, sautéed mushrooms with a green leaf salad and a side dish of french fries
Total time 20 minutes, serves 2.
- 6 to 8 large king scallops with coral (there is an increasing tendency to sell scallops without their coral which I think is a great shame given the contrast in colour, taste and texture that they give) On this occasion I used vacuum packed scallops from MacMillan’s at the Partick Farmer’s Market which have the advantage of having a longer shelf life, up to one week (though I always use them within 2 days), compared to lose fresh scallops.
- 6 to 8 chestnut mushrooms
- green leaf salad (in this case a ready-made Florette “Duo” Lambs Lettuce & Ruby Chard)
- oven french fries (McCain Crispy French Fries)
- olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
- olive oil
- dark soya sauce
- salt (Maldon)
- freshly ground pepper (try grinding some pepper corns in a pestle and mortar for a real pungent blast of pepper. Don’t over grind or you will end up with dust and a totally different taste experience!)
- Switch on the oven and turn it up to 190 degrees Centigrade and place a shallow sided baking / roasting tray in the oven and leave to warm up
- Meanwhile rinse the scallops under cold running water, cut off the hard piece of muscle that you will find on one edge of the scallop and discard. If the scallops are especially large you may want to cut them in half but don’t try to cut the coral in half, leave it attached to one of the two discs that you have just created and pat the scallops dry with kitchen towel and leave to one side.
- Place the salad in a colander and rinse under the cold tap (I know that the salad is supposed to be ready to eat straight from the pack but old habits die-hard!) shake off any remaining water and set to one side.
- Prepare the mushrooms, cutting off the end of the stalk and brushing off any dirt from the cap, then slice using a sharp knife and drizzle with olive oil.
- Once the oven has got to temperature remove the baking tray from oven and tip the fries into the tray ensuring that they are evenly distributed over the tray and place in the oven.
- Place a frying pan on the hob over a medium heat, add a glug of olive oil and once the pan is a hot tip in the sliced mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms moving them around the pan with a wooden spatula, ensuring that they are cooked on both sides. If required add more olive oil but don’t over do it we are not trying to deep fat fry them!
- While the mushrooms ar cooking place another non stick frying pan on the hob over a high heat and take the opportunity to give the fries a shake.
- Once the mushrooms are nearly cooked add a dash of dark soya sauce and work the mushrooms around the pan to make sure that they are all uniformly coated with soya sauce which will not only give them a lovely brown colour but will also give them an extra rich, meaty taste.
- Once the pan for the scallops is hot add a glug of olive oil (not too much!) to the pan followed by the scallops and season with salt and pepper. Shiggle the pan occasionally to ensure that the scallops don’t stick (I have yet to find a pan which is truly non-stick!). Once the scallops have been cooking for a couple of minutes they will be nicely browned on the lower side and they should be turned over, seasoned and cooked for a further 2 minutes (you may need to turn the heat down during the course of the cooking to make sure that the scallops are browned and not burnt!
- As the scallops finish cooking place the salad on the plates, drizzle with the oil and vinegar dressing and add the mushrooms and finally the scallops while placing the fries in a bowl as a side dish.
Serve and enjoy!
Copyright: All photographs and text in the blog “Brunch at Goodies” are subject to copyright. © Keith Gooderham 2011-2012. All rights reserved. Do NOT copy material without requesting permission to do so. If you would like permission simply contact me.