Two Sizzling Scallop Recipes for Seafood Sustainability

Scallops are sweet, delicate, meaty, and take only minutes to cook – not to mention they’re a seafood sustainability item. Unless you know how to buy and cook scallops, you probably eat them when you celebrate that special occasion at a restaurant.

Scallops cost a little more than other protein choices. If you buy the wrong product or cook them improperly, dealing with pricey scallops is a disappointment. Until I learned how to buy scallops and master cooking them, I too only ate them in restaurants. Now I know the secret to making the right choice at the market and knowing how to cook caramelized, creamy scallops (like the kind served in restaurants).

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A plate of raw scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper. Image via PHG.

Buying Scallops

Scallops are sold under a staggering array of names – wet, dry, farmed, wild, sea, bay, jumbo, small, and more. How can you know what all of that means? And how can you know if the scallops at your market are a sustainable choice?

The most important criteria for buying sustainable scallops are twofold: choose scallops that, when harvested, have little impact on the environment, and buy scallops from a trusted source. Need help knowing what that means? The gold standard organization and reference guide for knowing which scallops are most sustainable is Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, available as a printed guide or app.

At the market, look for certification labels to indicate sustainability standards. Best choice labels include Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). These labels are easily identifiable. Look for either blue or green colored labels with a white check mark.

When buying scallops, oftentimes you’ll see a number on the package or on the label at the seafood counter. This number refers to the number of scallops per pound, often called a count. For instance, a 10-20 count scallop means there are 10 to 20 scallops per pound. 30-40 count means there are 30 to 40 scallops per pound.

Lastly, shop for “dry” or “chemical free” scallops at the market. This means the scallops are not soaked in a phosphate solution, which acts as a preservative, adds weight, and costs you more money. Ask the person behind the counter for help if you aren’t sure.

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Crisp grilled scallop tacos served in a tortilla on a bed of almond pear slaw. Image via PHG.

Two Ways to Prepare Sizzling Scallops

Scallop tacos with almond pear slaw elevates an everyday taco meal, and scallop bites with roe are the perfect bite-sized appetizer when you want to impress. With these two easy scallop recipes, you can treat yourself in your own kitchen instead of waiting to eat scallops in a restaurant.

Scallop Tacos with Almond Pear Slaw

Yield: 8 tacos

Cook’s note:

  • Scallops require little cook time, a hot pan, and a delicate touch to achieve the desired result: a caramelized crust and perfectly cooked scallop.
  • Don’t crowd the pan.
  • Work in batches when cooking. If the scallops don’t form a brown crust, you have too many scallops in the skillet, or the pan isn’t hot enough. Reduce the amount of scallops in the pan to allow for equal space in the skillet so they don’t touch. This gives the scallops “breathing room.”
  • If using larger- or smaller-than-recommended scallops in these recipes, increase or decrease the cooking time accordingly.
  • Less cook time is better.
  • Lastly, before you place the first scallop in the hot skillet, prepare the slaw, warm the tortillas, set the table, pour drinks, and have your dinner companions within earshot.

Ingredients:

½ head Savoy cabbage, sliced thin

½ medium carrot, grated

½ celery stalk, cut on bias, ultra-thin

½ fresh pear, julienned

½ cup sliced almonds

1 tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Dash of fresh cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons champagne vinaigrette

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if desired

4 ounces creamed avocado

4 tablespoons sour cream

8 soft flour tortillas, or corn tortillas if desired

16 scallops (10-20 count) or 2 scallops per taco

2-3 tablespoons Canola oil for cooking

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Scallop bites with roe appetizer. Image via PHG.

Directions:

  1. Prepare the slaw. In a medium bowl, add cabbage, carrot, celery, pear, almonds, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Stir carefully so as to not break up the pear.
  2. Add vinegar and oil. Stir to coat.
  3. In a small bowl, add the avocado and sour cream. Stir until creamy.
  4. Warm flour tortillas. Cover loosely with clean dishtowel or tented foil.
  5. Heat a large skillet on medium heat until hot, about three to five minutes depending on your equipment
  6. While skillet heats, pat scallops dry with a paper towel. Stand scallops up on either flat surface, not the sides. Season both top and bottom of scallops with salt and pepper. Not much, more like an air kiss.
  7. Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and swirl pan to coat. Working quickly, place the scallops one at a time, flat side down allowing for equal room between each scallop. Sear for 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Resist the urge to move scallops. Turn scallops with tongs, a spatula, or large spoon. Scallops should release from the skillet with ease. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for same amount of time. Remove from heat.
  8. Arrange tortillas on plates. Smear a spoonful of avocado cream on tortilla. Plop a spoonful of almond pear slaw on top.
  9. Slice scallops into three or four pieces and arrange scallops over the slaw. Serve immediately.

Scallop Bites with Roe Appetizer

Using the same ingredients as above, the scallop bites with roe appetizer is a convenient adaptation of the above recipe.

Directions:

  1. Prepare slaw as indicated above. Omit avocado cream.
  2. Arrange a small amount of slaw on serving spoons or on small plates.
  3. Cook scallops as indicated above. Do not slice.
  4. Place scallops on slaw. Top with salmon roe. Serve immediately.

With these two simple recipes, you can enlighten your taste buds,  fascinate your guests, and ensure that you are consuming scallops in a healthy, economical, and sustainable way.

Sustainability Seafood Resources:

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide

Environmental Defense Fund

About The Author

Maureen Berry

Maureen C. Berry is the author of forthcoming Eating Salmon (Storey Publishing), the first in a series of sustainable seafood cookbooks. When she’s not cooking and writing, she photographs wildlife and takes naps. She writes the blogs Seafood Lady: Sustainable. Seafood. News. and A Cook Writes. Maureen lives in Kentucky with her husband and their neurotic, lovable, wire fox terrier. You can find her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.