There’s a lot I love about Colorado. One of the (few) downsides, however, is our utter state of land-lockedness, far from any coastal waters. As a native Long Islander, I’ll admit – I miss my seafood. Not just any seafood. But truly fresh seafood. The kind where what you buy at the local fish market is what came off the boats that morning, or perhaps, the night before. The kind of seafood you buy at Southside Fish and Clam in Lindenhurst, or the Southold Fish Market in Southold, two of my favorite seafood markets back in New York.
It’s not seafood snobbery, believe me. The freshness makes a difference, and it’s a difference you can taste. What we can buy here at our run of the mill supermarkets in Colorado just doesn’t compare. At least there’s Whole Foods, which does a pretty good job of shipping in fresh, never frozen seafood, such as scallops. We pay a pretty penny for it, but as an occasional indulgence to satisfy my seafood needs, it does the trick.
And so I recently made scallops in a lemon butter sauce for Kelli’s birthday dinner. These were truly colossal sea scallops…six to the pound! To cook the scallops, I rinsed them in cold water and set them aside. In a large skillet, I melted three tablespoons butter, added about an equal amount of olive oil, and sauteed two cloves of minced garlic. To that, I added the juice from one half a large lemon, and set the heat to medium high. Then I placed each of the scallops into the skillet and covered it with a lid. (Normally, I wouldn’t cover the scallops, but these were so large that I wanted to retain some of the extra heat to help them cook evenly through.) When the underside began to show the slightest bit of browning, I flipped the scallops and finished cooking them on the other side.
Scallops are a delicate thing to cook. When done to perfection, they’re divine. But finding that perfection is a fine line to walk. If you overcook scallops, they become chewy and fishy. If you undertook scallops, that’s a food safety issue. You want scallops to remain tender and moist, but they should be white and opaque all the way through. If you cut into a scallop and find a clear center, it isn’t done. (To be doubly sure the scallops were perfectly done – especially since Kelli is pregnant and I wasn’t keen on poisoning her – I cheated and cut one of my scallops in half. It looked good, so I pulled the scallops off the heat.)
To plate the dish, I paired the scallops with Jasmine rice and grilled asparagus (seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper). Finally, I drizzled some of the remaining lemon butter sauce from the pan over the scallops. I’m happy to report that the meal was delicious, and I think Kelli and I could easily have eaten another helping of scallops. We just might have to make more scallops for Christmas Eve, when my family celebrates Sicilian style, with lots of seafood!