Monday, April 12, 2010

Scallops in Garlic Orange Sesame

This is another easy cinch recipe. My son and hubby LOVE this one, light and flavorful! Summer is around the corner and I can't stop thinking about seafood and light hors d'oeuvres. Since I have a ton of oranges sitting around and a bag of scallops we will do Citrus Scallops...and since we LOVE garlic, we'll do Garlic Citrus Scallops!

(I know what you're thinking... I really DO try to remain on the more kosher-side for the Jewish holidays, but my roots are still Vietnamese and, yes, I do prepare, consume and enjoy shellfish.)
The other day my son Max, a 7 year-old seafood lover, asked me where scallops come from. The actual scallop meat we eat, what we refer to as the "scallop," is actually just the adductor muscle (big in a scallop and teeny in an oyster) which holds the half shells together and enables the scallop to swim (by the opening and shutting motion). The adductor muscle in the scallop is BIG silky and sweet, not TINY tough and rubbery like in oysters or muscles.
Scallops have a dense soft sweet flavor (like most shellfish). Only in the US are scallops (typically) sold shucked, out of their shells. The shells are beautiful and range in size from small "bay" scallops to the huge "sea" scallops. What a shame I don't have any here for presentation:(
If you want shelled scallops, check specialty fish markets and high-end sushi restaurants. As far as scallop shopping, "chemical free" ones are cream-colored, a little tan. Bright white scallops in a milky liquid hint signs of phosphate, a chemical that holds the quality in freezing (safe I think!). A strong or heavy brine smell is fine, but avoid obviously funky, stinky or sour-fishy odors.
In Asian cuisine, I've seen dried salty scallops (and dried salty shrimp) added to all sorts of dishes. My parents still call scallops by their French name, "escalope." I grew up eating fried rice, various soups and seafood dishes with "escalope." When I moved out and started eating and eventually cooking, it took me a while to draw the connection that "escalope" is, in fact, scallops! (Silly, I know but I just thought of it.)
Okay, the recipe. I bought a dozen previously frozen large "sea" (aka BIG) scallops from Costco (I know to SOME of you, Costco seafood is unacceptable, but hey they were a STEAL...). Run them through cold water, cleaning the scallops thoroughly to rid of all traces of sand and mud (...nothing worse than an unexpected bite into a grain of dirt, ICK!). The scallops should be cooked like little tender steaks, seared on high heat on each side, leaving the center rare or medium-rare. Overcooked scallops are rubbery, too tough and blah. 
I am still on a citrus kick, so this sauce-dressing-relish will be a sort of vinaigrette using the juice of an orange, or any yummy acidic substitute, in place of the vinegar. Use left-over orange dressing as a salad dressing or side sauce for shrimp or white flaky fish.
**Scallops in Orange Garlic Sesame**

about a dozen large scallops
salt, pepper, granulated oil - enough to coat both sides
olive oil - enough to coat a pan

1 orange (for the juice and additional thin slices for garnish)
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of pepper
2tsp sugar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1T olive oil
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
(optional 1/4 crushed chili flakes, "pizza pepper" for kick)
8 cloves minced garlic (more or less depending on garlic-lovers)

Rinse the scallops thoroughly in cold water. Pat dry onto paper towels (I use Bounty, super absorbtion!). Generously coat both sides of each scallop with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Set aside room temperature while you make the Orange Garlic Relish.
Now the Orange Dressing: In a small bowl, combine the 1/4tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper. Squeeze the juice of one orange.

Add the 2tsp sugar, minced garlic, 1T oil, 1tsp dijon, and mix with a fork. For a little kick, add 1/4 crushed red chili flakes (the kind you top off pizza with)! Now put the dressing in the fridge to chill. We'll pull it out again to dress the scallops after we cook them.

Cooking the scallops! Heat a pan on high. Add oil just enough to coat the pan. When the oil and pan are both hot, use tongs (or chopsticks) to add the scallops, leaving space between each scallop. Use a splatter screen for the oil popping! Leave the scallops in place so that they SEAR. Resist moving them around. If you move them around the edges won't sear/brown/caramelize!

Depending on how hot your pan is and how thick your scallops are, about 1 minute, flip the scallops over to cook the other side. If you did not move them around and let them sit and sear, the result will be a gorgeous brown crust. Cook the other side, leaving the heat still on high.
Transfer to a serving platter.
To dress up the plate for fun, add thin orange slices wedged into the sides of the plate. Take out the chilled dressing from the fridge and pour a generous amount of the Orange Dressing over all of the scallops. 
Then sprinkle sesame seeds. Voila! Grab some forks and enjoy with a glass of Riesling wine or ice cold beer with some friends!


  1. Great recipe Lisa. I love scallops, Barry doesn't so I'll do scallops for me and shrimp for him. Thanks again for all the pictures and recipes. I'm anxious to hear about Vietnamese kugel.