Growing up I always had a fear of scallops. I think it had something to do with the texture, a weird mixture of firm to the touch but rubbery inside. Throw in the fact that its a living creature but looks nothing like the sort (I mean seriously where is the mouth, eyes, organs etc) and there was no chance I was going to consume something that more closely resembled a distant cousin of E.T. then any fish from the sea.
Anyways since then I have come to the conclusion that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The problem is not scallops themselves but rather the way people cook them, in a lot of restaurants they are cooked on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes too long which gives them that rubbery texture. The perfect scallop is firm to the touch with a crisp caramelized crust and a soft and sweet middle. A couple of tips I have learned in my mission to master the perfect scallop:
- Try to extract as much water as possible out of the scallops before cooking. This can be done by wrapping the scallops in paper towel and leaving to rest on a plate. I also find giving them a bit of a squeeze with your hands helps get any of the remaining water out.
- When cooking make sure you do not overcrowd the pan, its better to cook the scallops in smaller batches then fill the pan which will bring down the overall temperature and increase the risk of the scallops becoming rubbery.
- Always cook scallops on medium-high heat, no lower to ensure that you quickly sear the top and bottom while not overcooking the middle.
This dish is so incredibly easy to put together and the little touch of mint adds an unexpected burst of flavor and freshness. This is a dish I used to make all of the time pre-SCD and was so happy when I realized that I didn’t have to change a thing. The bacon/pancetta is completely option but I like to sprinkle small pieces over the dish before serving as I find they add a crunch to the dish which contrasts nicely with the smooth and creamy pea puree.
2 cups thawed frozen peas
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chicken stock (may need more depending on desired consistency)
5-6 Mint leaves
8-10 large scallops
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup diced pancetta or bacon
salt and pepper for seasoning
- As mentioned above, to extract water out of the scallops wrap them in paper towel and leave to rest while you cook the pea puree
- In a pot over medium heat cook the peas, butter and chicken stock for 6-9 minutes until the peas are tender
- While the peas are cooking, in a separate pan cook the pancetta/bacon in a splash of oil over medium-high heat until they become crisp (should take 4-5 minutes). Once cooked transfer the pancetta/bacon to a paper towel topped plate to absorb some of the excess oil
- Once the peas have become tender, pour the mixture into a blender, add the mint leaves and pulse until it becomes smooth. Feel free to add more chicken stock depending on how liquid you would like the puree to be
- Return the puree to a pot over very low heat and cover to keep warm
- I always save the cooking of the scallops until last to ensure that they do not get overcooked (which can happen very easily). Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper before cooking
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot add the scallops (make sure not to overcrowd the pan!) and let sear until one side is golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and let sear on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Only flip the scallops once and try your best not to move them around too much. Remove the scallops from the heat as soon as they look to be cooked
- To serve this dish, top a portion of the pea puree with 3-4 scallops and then sprinkling the crisp pancetta. Enjoy!