A fancy dish that’s quick and easy
Want a celebratory dish, but don’t have much time to cook? We have an elegant solution – and it takes no more than 15 minutes to make.
With Valentine’s Day coming up tomorrow, what better time to serve this dish? Just add champagne.
Plus chocolates and flowers, of course.
Recipe: Seared Scallops in Cream Sauce
We use sea scallops in this dish, but bay scallops work equally well (just cook them about half the time you would for sea scallops). The ingredients in this dish are quite rich, so we usually serve about 4 ounces of scallops per person. You can adjust this to taste.
We found this recipe decades ago in Paul Bocuse in Your Kitchen, the famed French chef’s guide for home cooks.
Prep time for this dish is about 5 minutes. Cooking adds no more than 10 minutes.
You can serve this dish as a first course or a main. When served as a main course, we think broccoli combines well with the flavor of the scallops and their sauce. This recipe serves 4 as a main, 3 if your appetites are really hearty.
- 1 pound scallops (we prefer sea scallops, but bay scallops work too)
- salt to taste (a pinch or two of kosher salt per scallop; see Notes)
- ~4 tablespoons butter (clarified is best; may use half butter and half olive oil)
- ~½ cup flour (very optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup white vermouth
- ¾ cup heavy cream (a bit more is OK)
- Using a paper towel, dry the scallops thoroughly (they won’t brown if not completely dry). Add salt to taste.
- Place a frying pan on medium stovetop heat (use one large enough to hold all the scallops in one layer; a stainless pan is best – see Notes). Add the butter and let it melt.
- While the butter is melting, dip both flat sides of each scallop in flour, if using. Dust off the excess.
- Add the scallops to the frying pan in one layer. Sear the scallops on one side for 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn the scallops over and sear them for 1 additional minute.
- Remove the scallops from the pan and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel (the scallops won’t be fully cooked; you’ll finish them in the next step). Add the lemon juice and vermouth to the frying pan, then reduce it by half. Add the cream and reduce that by half.
- Add the scallops back to the pan. Warm them in the sauce until fully cooked.
- Plate the scallops, spooning sauce over them.
- Flouring the scallops really is optional; we often don’t do it. The flour helps them brown a bit. But if your pan is hot, they’ll brown nicely anyway.
- Speaking of pans, a stainless steel pan is best for browning scallops. They often don’t brown satisfactorily in a nonstick pan.
- Make sure you don’t burn the butter when melting it. Clarified butter burns at a higher temperature than regular butter, so it works better for this dish.
- You can substitute a light-tasting olive oil for half the butter (this will help prevent the butter from burning).
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s about half as salty by volume as regular table salt (the flakes are larger, so they pack a measure less densely). If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- Want to include some black pepper? For this dish, we think it’s best when added at table.
- Bay scallops are smaller than sea scallops. So they take less time to cook.
- How to tell if a scallop is cooked? Touch it – the scallop should have about the same firmness as the tip of your nose (perhaps a bit less).
- Some cooks like to remove the little knobby muscle from scallops (it can be a bit tough). We never bother.
- You can brine the scallops before cooking them if you prefer. Thomas Keller offers a procedure for doing this in Ad Hoc at Home. He suggests brining scallops in salty water for about 10 minutes (you have to rinse the scallops and dry them before adding them to the hot pan). This method does add a bit of flavor, but we’re happy with the procedure we use.
- Want to garnish this dish? Add a lemon slice or wedge. Or some chopped parsley.
Only the Best
“Merveilleuse!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I looove scallops.”
“Of course you do,” I said. “You have expensive tastes. Scallops and champagne are your favorites, I’ve noticed.”
“I never claimed to be a cheap date,” said Mrs K R.
“Indeed,” I said. “Couldn’t prefer fish ‘n chips and beer, could you?”
“Consider yourself lucky, mon cher,” said Mrs K R. “To have such a charming and cultivated spouse.”
Truth. Mrs K R is . . . one of a kind.
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