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.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Scallops on Artichoke Scoops
New Orleands Barbecue Shrimp
Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce
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Oh, I love scallops, too and I haven't made them in like FOREVER! Mr. Manservant would be so pleased to see these on his plate alongside a juicy steak for a bit of surf and turf. Me? I'll just have the surf!Happy Valentine's Day John!
Hi Abbe, you SO need to make these. :-) Happy Valentine's Day, and thanks for the comment.
I am a huge fan of scallops too! These look so succulent and perfectly pan seared. And thumbs up for Mrs. Kitchen Riffs expensive taste :-))
Hi Angie, these were wonderful -- love scallops. Expensive, but wonderful. :D Thanks for the comment.
OMG Bobby, you just solved my problem as to what I'll serve for our (romantic) Valentine's evening dinner tomorrow. I'm still deciding between a side of broccoli florets drizzled w/butter & lemon juice, OR asparagus bundles wrapped in bacon. There will also be a decadent chocolate dessert, & coffee. Happy Valentine's Day to you and your loved one, Bobby!
I love scallops and I am always looking for different recipes. Yours looks delicious. Have a sweet Valentine’s Day .
Hi Anonymous, LOL wrong blogger (I'm John) but right dish: these scallops are fantastic! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Gerlinde, you'll love this! Hope you have a terrific Valentine's Day, too, and thanks for the comment.
This is fabulous! I'd much rather have this as a meal than one that includes a steak. Too bad my husband doesn't cook...
Hi Mimi, we'd rather have this than steak, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Scallops are one of my favourites as well and these look delicious. You have covered every aspect of cooking them very well. This reminds me that I must check if they are in season and can actually be purchased fresh at the moment. They are for special occasions, that is for sure.
Oh John, my eyes are devouring these scallops...I love scallops, specially when it is done perfectly like yours...nicely browned and with this creamy rich sauce...how can I resist?
Happy Valentine's Day!
Absolutely love scallops but cannot see my favourite part of the roe on yours :) ! Cooked in chardonnay butter methinks is also great or Asian style with brown butter, sea urchin and salmon roe . . . must get some for the weekend . . .
Hi Happy Retiree, scallops are wonderful, aren't they? We love 'em! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, hard to resist scallops, isn't it? :-) Happy Valentine's Day, and thanks for the comment.
Hi Eha, alas, the roe is really hard to find in the US -- unless you can get the scallops in the shell, which often is a special order. Like the idea of the chardonnay butter -- sounds terrific. Thanks for the comment.
Champagne, scallops with cream sauce, and chocolate for dessert? I say that's the Valentine's Day trifecta that will win any heart over. ;)
*smile* Wretched geography again: 80% of Australians live within a 2-hour drive of the sea and are able to buy fresh and not frozen and very much on the shell like oysters: some do not like the roe but it is such an enriching flavour for any sauce if you do cut it off.
Hi Eha, we do get "fresh" scallops, but they're not at ALL like freshly shucked ones. Pretty good, but lacking that extra flavor and succulence of ones that are sold in the shell.
Hi Carolyn, sounds like a winner of a menu! Thanks for the comment.
I do love scallops. It took me years to get my husband on board. He has finally expanded his taste to the more refined things in life :)
Hi Dahn, scallops are terrific, aren't they? We (and particularly Mrs KR) can't get enough. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wonderful dish, so sophisticated☺☺
It's been forever since I had scallops! These look so delicious and succulent. Great sauce too!
Happy Valentine's Day to you and Mrs. Riff! We hope you are spoiling Mrs. Riff rotten with champagne, flowers.,lots of LOVE, chocolates and of course these rocking delicious scallops. We have never made them with a cream sauce before but really love this idea. Take Care
Hi Natalia, nice, huh? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, the sauce is so simple but so flavorful! Good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, scallops + cream sauce = bliss! Really a nice combo of flavors. :-) Happy Valentine's Day, and thanks for the comment.
Simple and quick is a good thing. We love scallops and come spring we get these huge diver scallops from Western Sweden. I've tucked this recipe away for when they begin to appear. Now, you best get back to chilling that bottle of Dom Perignon for Mrs. KR. Enjoy your evening.
Hi Ron, of COURSE Mrs KR LOVES Dom Perignon. :-) You'll love this recipe when you have a chance to try it. Thanks for the comment.
It looks like a scallop feast. The cream sauce gives a great touch to it. Happy Valentine's Day!
Hi Denise, cream sauces are so good, aren't they? And usually so simple to make! Happy Valentine's Day, and thanks for the comment.
Mmmmm....this meal would make me very happy! I just got Bill to admit that scallops weren't half bad when I wrapped them in bacon a few weeks ago. Baby steps! Love these doused in yummy cream sauce! Hope you and Mrs. KR had a lovely Valentine's Day.
Your golden crust is perfection! (I hope that's not too personal...) GREG
Hi Liz, scallops and bacon have a real affinity for each other, don't they? Of course what doesn't bacon have an affinity for? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, LOL! Love that nice sear on seafood. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful scallops, John. You're right. Such a simple meal. But they always feel so special to me. Happy Valentine's Day to you and Mrs. KR! :)
The perfect sear. That crisp "crust" is calling for me. The vermouth is a lovely touch, too. Delicious!
Creamy, dreamy scallops ... so simple yet so elegant. And yes, I'll take cream sauce on just about anything. Good one!
Hi Anne, simple, but SO good! :-) Hope your Valentine's Day was great, and thanks for the comment.
Hi Valentina, a nicely seared scallop both tastes good and looks good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Judy, cream sauce is hard to resist, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
You really can't go wrong with scallops! This is just a beautiful dish!
Hi Kelsie, pretty and delish -- perfect combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Looks amazing and very swanky.
Hi Amalia, it is a kinda swanky dish, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Lovely and elegant! Happy Valentines Day to you both!
Hi David, isn't it? :-) Happy Valentine's Day, and thanks for the comment.
how utterly scrumptious KR! they look so delish. Mrs KR does have very good taste. hope your Valentine's Day was perfect. cheers sherry
Hi Sherry, Mrs KR does indeed have good taste! :-) Thanks for the comment.
How gorgeous! And I love scallops. I've never had them with a cream sauce! I bet I could eat a dozen!
HI Jeff, with this size scallop, a dozen would be about a pound. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Can't go wrong with scallops (and chocolates and flowers)! Elegant dish.
Hi Debra, you can't! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Scallops are such a treat and the way you have prepared them is even more decadent.
Hi Laura, decadent works for us. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Aleksandra, they really are good! Thanks for the comment.
I know of that chef but I don't have any of his cookbooks. This does indeed look like a meal fitting for a romantic occasion. I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day xx
Hi Charlie, we did indeed have a great Valentine's Day. Eating scallops. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I haven’t tried this yet but looking forward to try it. I was thinking that this would be really good if you reserve some of the sauce and add spinach to it instead of adding the scallops back into it to make a creamed spinach. You can then add a layer of the creamed spinach, top it with scallops and pour some of the reserved sauce over top.
Hi Corrie, that would be a good dish -- basically Scallops Florentine. :-) I think I'd use the spinach for a base rather than a topper, but that's just me. Thanks for the comment.
Drooling over here!! I love love love scallops and these look like such a lovely meal!
Easy and scrumptious? You have my undivided attention with this fabulous scallop recipe!
Hi Amy, it's a wonderful meal! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, this is SO easy and SO quick. And SO tasty. Perfect. :-) Thanks for the comment.
WEll, looks like we had the same menu for Valentine's Day. We made seared scallops as well, almost exactly as the recipe you made, but I didn't add any cream. Darn! That sounds like an awesome addition!
Hi MJ, great minds. :-) Do try scallops with cream -- awesome combo. Thanks for the comment.
I love fancy dishes that come together in just a few minutes, all the more time to enjoy with your friends and family.
Hi Emma, our thoughts exactly! :-) Thanks for the comment.
The browning really makes this dish. But I couldn't tell if you had used the flour this time? --Rocquie
Hi Rocquie, I actually DID use flour this time, although I almost never do. The color of the sear is really the same -- the real key is to make sure your scallops are DRY before you put them in the pan. Thanks for the comment.
Having Paul Bocuse as a guide (although you certainly don't need him), you definitely created a special meal. A glass of bubbly with it and you can't get any better than that as far as I'm concerned.
Hi Karen, it really is hard to beat Bocuse, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Finally I am remembering to comment on this post to let you know that I fixed myself a special Valentine Dinner using this recipe. It was Delish!!!
Hi Carol, good to see you again! And glad you enjoyed this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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