I love scallops. I especially love making them because they are fancy, and surprisingly not as expensive as you might think. You absolutely want to get fresh high quality diver scallops, but that’s really the main cost of this meal (and it’s really not that expensive, we are talking less than 10 bucks for enough scallops for 2 people). This dish is super quick, and super easy to prepare, it’s a wonderful weeknight dinner for two or it can easily be adapted for more.
3 strips of thick cut bacon
3 scallions, sliced
1 clove garlic, diced
6 scallops (3 per person is what I generally allot for)
2 servings of linguine
1 Tbs of olive oil, plus more for dressing the pasta
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta (salt the water, it’s important, it adds a lot of flavor to the pasta). Cook the pasta while you prepare the scallops. Dice the bacon and cook over medium heat in a large skillet. Once the bacon is crisp use tongs to remove it from the pan, I like to put it in a bowl lined with a paper towel to help drain a bit of the fat. Remove the pan from the heat to let the oil cool slightly (burnt bacon fat is not a delicious smell).Pat dry the scallops, this is a very important step because if they are wet they will just steam in the pan instead of searing. Season your scallops liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. I add a light sprinkle of cayenne because I think it really adds to the scallops, but it’s optional (a light sprinkle will add flavor and not a lot of heat).
Depending on how much fat your bacon rendered, you may want to pour some off, you want about a tablespoon. You also could remove all of the bacon fat and use olive oil (but I don’t know why you would want to do that). Put the pan back on the heat and warm to medium high. You want a HOT skillet because the key to scallops is to get a really good sear on them. Another key to scallop cooking is not to crowd the pan, if you add too many at one time it drops the temperature and you will not be able to get a proper sear. You should be able to fit 6 easily in a 10-12inch skillet, but any more than that you should do it in batches. Once the pan is hot, add the scallops carefully (they should sizzle). Do not touch them; let them cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until they have a dark sear. I find it easiest to use tongs to turn them over, but use whatever you are comfortable with. Once the scallops are cooked remove from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic to the pan.
Cook until fragrant and then add the sliced scallions and cook for another 30 seconds or so just until the scallions start to wilt. Pour the garlic/scallion oil over the pasta and add another healthy drizzle of olive oil, add the cooked bacon and toss. Plate the pasta and top with 3 scallops apiece.
A few notes:
There are two kinds of scallops in the world, bay and sea. Bay scallops are found in the smaller bays of coastlines and sea scallops are found…well…in the sea. Bay scallops are quite a bit smaller, usually about 1/2″ in diameter where sea scallops are about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Diver scallops are sea scallops that are literally hand picked by divers. They are considered to be the highest quality (and most tasty in my opinion). While there is a time and a place for bay scallops, I think diver scallops are really ideal for use as an entrée.
– Second note from Cat: This isn’t my post, but since I have a scallop related anecdote, I have to take my chance. I used to joke with my friend Andy Flynn that when I imagine scallops in the wild, I imagine a long white tube just crawling around in the sea, like a pale cucumber, and when we eat scallops, somebody just grabs the tube and chops it up into little circles. I can’t remember why I thought this idea was so hilarious to begin with, and I am, of course, aware that isn’t actually true, but I do find it funny to think about. So two summers ago, I was in Asia, and in this particular story, on an island off the coast of Thailand. Thai islands have a lot of “beach BBQ” things going on for tourists, where they put all this seafood on tables, and you pick it out and they BBQ it for you. Well, I finally saw scallops in the wild, turns out they are in pretty little shells, and not, in fact, long white tubes like I prefer to imagine. The picture below is me, trying to explain to the skeptical Thai man at the BBQ stand why I found his scallops so fascinating. He obviously thinks I’m a total idiot. – Cat