Scallops may not much to look at, but they'll make you look like a star in the kitchen. Sweet, delicate and just a little bit fancy. So let them be impressed--there's no reason to spill the beans that scallops are really a snap to prepare!
At your fish market you're likely to see three basic types of scallops: sea, bay and calico. The flavor doesn't vary much, they all taste mild, sweet and faintly nutty. The largest type--sea scallop are roughly the size of a squashed marshmallow, and because they are relatively larger, they have a slightly brinier flavor than the other types. Bay scallops are smaller, about the size of green grapes. Many scallop lovers find sea and bay scallops easier to work with than the third type, calicos. These little guys are really quite small, like pencil erasers in size and shape, and because they are so small they can easily overcook and become rubbery. But no matter which type of scallop you decide to try make sure they are firm, fresh and dry. If the scallops are sitting in a puddle of milky white liquid, it may be a sign that they're past their prime in freshness or have been treated so they'll absorb water to increase their weight. Untreated scallops are referred to as 'dry' and a much better choice for cooking.
I make scallops often around here for their versatility, elegance and speed--scallops can be a hurried cook's best friend and this easy recipe is a favorite of mine typically ready to serve in less than a half an hour. The orange juice with the wine brings a brightness to this dish. For the fennel slaw, warm the vegetables just enough to barely soften them..they should retain a bit of a crunch to contrast the silky, tender scallops.
Seared Scallops with Warm Fennel Slaw
1 1/2 lb dry sea scallops
2 TBLS olive oil
2 medium shallots, finely sliced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 yellow peppers. seeded & cut into thin strips
2 tsp grated orange zest
3 TBLS orange juice
2 tsp dry white wine
2-3 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
In a large skillet heat 1 TBLS of the olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until they just become softened. Add fennel, peppers and orange zest and continue cooking, stirring frequently until the veggies begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, white wine, 2 TBLS minced parsley, sea salt and pepper, stirring to mix all. Remove the slaw from heat and cover in foil to keep it warm. Wipe out the skillet with paper towel and sprinkle scallops with remaining sea salt and ground pepper. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat about 45 seconds. Add the scallops, flat side down and cook without disturbing until the scallops are well browned on the bottoms--about 3 minutes. Now flip the scallops over and cook the second side another 2-3 minutes longer ( the exact timing will depend on the size of your scallops). Plate your warmed fennel slaw and arrange scallops on top of the slaw. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve. Enjoy!