Don’t be fooled. This isn’t REALLY a scallop recipe. It’s a recipe for one of the best sauces you’ll ever taste. Put it on halibut, rock fish, cod, or even chicken. It’s not a hard sauce to make, but it does take a little bit of time. You’ll spend a good twenty minutes at the stove stirring and incorporating the butter, but other than that, this is a pretty simple sauce. Not only is it simple, but romantic too! I made this dish one day when I worked at home (so I could start the sauce a bit early). When my husband came home, I surprised him with a glass of sparkling wine, some cheese and crackers, and the delicious scent of bacon. A few more minutes of stirring, a total of five or six minutes cooking the scallops, and you’re ready for a delicious dinner. The original recipe suggested serving this alongside a watercress salad, but we had some kale that needed to be used, so we just cooked it on high heat and seasoned with some salt and red wine vinegar.
A note on cooking scallops… If you don’t think you like scallops, it’s probably because they were overcooked. Scallops are notoriously easy to overcook as they typically require only three minutes per side total. You want the heat high, to create a lovely sear on the outside, which will enhance the natural sweetness. When cooked properly, scallops should be tender, almost flaky, and incredibly juicy. Usually you want a high heat oil, like grapeseed. Bacon fat works well, but you do have to be careful heating it up. Get it just below smoking. But wait… how do you know when it’s just below smoking? Well, after awhile, it’ll be easy to tell, but for now, just get the oil to where it is just smoking, turn down the heat, lift the pan off the heat for a moment or two, return it, and you’re ready.
Set the scallops in the pan and let them sizzle away. Don’t move them for at least two minutes. Gently lift one and check for that beautiful golden sear. If it’s there, great. Flip the scallops. If not, give them one more minute. Flip and cook for about one minute less than the first side. That’s it.
- Bacon, diced, 1/4 cup
- Shallots, minced, 2 Tbsp
- Dry Washington sparking wine, 1 cup
- Vanilla bean pod, split
- Champagne vinegar, 1/2 tsp
- Unsalted butter, cold, 1 cup in quarter inch cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pacific scallops, 12, or a 1 lb package from Taylor Shellfish
- Sauté bacon until crispy, drain and set aside, reserving the bacon fat for making the scallops.
- In a small sauce pan, put shallots, vanilla bean and sparking wine over medium heat.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce to medium-low heat and reduce to approximately 1/4 cup.
- Add the champagne vinegar and remove the vanilla bean.
- Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the butter, cube by cube, adding a new one as the previous one has finished melting.
- When all the butter has been added and the sauce has thickened to stick to a spoon, stir in the bacon.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from direct heat, but keep it warm, until ready to serve.
- Salt and pepper all sides of the scallops.
- Heat the reserved bacon fat in a fry pan/skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once the fat is hot, add the scallops and sear for 2-3 minutes on the first side.
- Flip and sear for another 3 minutes.
- Serve the scallops drizzled generously with the sauce.
Notes: As I said in the introduction, this is a fabulous dish. The sauce is rich, velvety, and utterly romantic. If you buy a bottle of sparkling wine, you and your beloved can enjoy some bubbly with this dish. If, like my friend Ben, you don’t drink, but your partner does, just buy a split of sparkling wine and surprise your partner with a glass of bubbly alongside the meal.
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