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Chef Anne's Tips on Seared Scallops

I’ve cooked 1000s of scallops over the years, (not an exaggeration) starting as a line cook in a French restaurant in Chicago and now as the chef of my own catering company. Scallops are a crowd-pleaser, the perfect seafood for a decadent special-occasion dinner.

I’ve read and watched a variety of techniques and recipes for cooking scallops, but I prefer the way I was taught best, years ago while cooking on a hectic kitchen line. This method leaves scallops beautifully golden brown on top, and medium rare at the center. For this preparation, I’m serving them as a starter course with sweet corn “milk” and pistachio pesto. But the flavor combinations are endless.

This looks like a lot of steps but don’t worry! Follow these instructions and your guests will think you’ve cooked 1000s of scallops too! 

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Restaurant-Style Seared Scallops ~ makes 4 appetizer servings (the appropriate portion size for a 3-course meal).

Ingredients

12 scallops

grapeseed oil

kosher salt and fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons of butter, room temperature

3 sprigs of fresh thyme 

2 cloves of garlic smashed

Method

  • Pull scallops out of the fridge 15 minutes before using, to bring up the internal temperature of the meat and promote even cooking.

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.

  • Pat the scallops dry with paper towel to remove moisture.

  • Season each scallop lightly with salt & pepper on both flat sides.

  • Take a large sauté pan and place it on high heat for 1-2 minutes, until pan is smoking hot

  • Swirl in 2 tablespoons of oil (grapeseed, canola or safflower seed oil are all great, but do not use olive oil because of its low smoking point).

  • Place the scallops facedown in the sauté pan quickly but do not over-crowd pan. If needed, use 2 separate pans so each scallop has plenty of room to brown, instead of steaming.

  • Now the most important instruction…do not touch them!!! Wait about 3 minutes. You may peak from time to time for the desired brownness but to not flip or move scallops around.

  • When a nice brown color starts to form, place the entire sautéed pan directly in the oven BUT do not flip them (Sound crazy? Stay with me!)

  • After about 3 minutes, check scallops for desired doneness, they should be firm but slightly wobbly to the touch.

  • Now take the pan out of the oven and place it on the stove off-heat (remember to use a dry dish towel or hot pad to handle the pan). Here’s the fun part…quickly turn the scallops over. The direct heat from the pan will continue to cook the scallops a little bit more. Toss in your pad of butter, smashed garlic and thyme sprigs. As the butter melts, and infuses with the garlic and thyme, spoon some over each scallop to baste (don’t freak out my paleo friends, a little olive oil is a fine replacement if you’re not eating dairy).  

  • Your scallops are ready to be enjoyed! Serve immediately…like right now!