Another new adventure

February 20, 2016

Scallops and such; mastering a new thing.

Scallops and such; mastering a new thing.

This seems to be a season of cooking things I haven’t cooked before. We had poached eggs, and I forget what all else, but I’m pretty positive I’ve cooked half a dozen things this year I’ve never cooked before in my 60 years.

This weekend, it was scallops.

I love me a scallop. Whether they’re the big ol’ bay scallops, looking like they’ve been diced out of some larger chunk of shellfish with a cookie cutter, or the smaller scallops, their sweetness, their texture, even the slight occasional grittiness of the sand that didn’t get completely cleared from their tissue — they’re a wonderful, rich taste of the sea.

Much as I love them, I’d always shied away from cooking my own scallops, having heard they were finicky and very easy to ruin by overcooking. But a recent discussion on a food forum I follow, along with some very detailed, very excellent directions from one of the members, convinced me I could do it.

So I did. And they were fine. And this is how you cook a scallop, presupposing you have a sous vide circulator.

  • Thaw your scallops (unless you live near the coast and/or in a place that flies in fresh seafood periodically, and can get fresh ones) in the fridge, and then put them on paper towels and blot them, squeezing lightly, with another couple of thicknesses of paper towels.
  • Brine the scallops in a solution of sugar and salt water (sugar equal to 4.2 percent of the water weight, salt equal to 6 percent, or about 1.5 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar, roughly) and a cup of ice cubes after the sugar and salt are dissolved, for 30 minutes. Take them out, and soak them in ice water for another 10 minutes.
  • Line about four of them up, an inch or so apart, on a sheet of plastic wrap, leaving a couple of inches free on each end. Roll up the wrap around the scallops, tucking the ends inside the roll. When you’ve finished, pull off another piece of wrap and repeat the process.
  • Sous vide the scallops at 122 degrees F for about an hour for a 1.5-inch diameter scallop, up to 4 hours for the big 3.5-inch ones. Chill them, still wrapped, in an ice water bath. Unwrap, and repeat the draining on paper towels and patting dry step.
  • Sear for about 20 seconds on a side in a non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray, over medium high heat. This is the one place I departed slightly from the instructions. I’m iffy about using a non-stick pan on high heat, as the directions called for, cooking spray or no. If you use cast iron or stainless, and high heat, directions contend you need sear for only 10-15 seconds per side.

If you don’t have a sous vide setup, I’m sorry. I THINK you might could compensate, albeit it would take a lot of standing over the stove until you figured out how your stove was going to behave — but hot water comes out of my tap at between 110 and 115 degrees. I THINK you could use that, put it on the stove on low, use a candy thermometer or a meat thermometer in the pot, and roughly control the temp by letting it get to about 125 and then turning it off until the temp drops to, say, between 115 and 120. The issue, of course, would be how long it’d take it, on low, to change temp, and then how long it would take to drop, which would take some experimentation to find out. I expect I’d try it first with the small scallops, as the big ones would require a damn long time standing over the stove squinting at the thermometer.

The texture on these scallops is amazing. The finicky nature of which scallops are accused is as a result of quickly going rubbery, like a lot of shellfish, if overcooked; with a consistently low temp for the initial cook, followed by a very quick sear, takes the potential for overcooking out of the equation.

I served them with cheese-sriracha-garlic grits with a ginger-lime sauce, and broccoli drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt and roasted, with  Parmigiano grated on afterward. (None of that green-can fake Parm cut with sawdust in my kitchen, not since I started using the real stuff.)

This, if I did cook it myownself, was a quite excellent meal. I highly recomment you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em get you some scallops, and sous vide circulator if you don’t have one, and try your own.

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