In a few days, my wife is going to be running a half marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Disney (you can make donations here). So, a few days before she left, I thought I would cook her a nice dinner. I drove out to the local seafood market, which I previously wrote about, here, called Hills. Winter is never a great time of year to get impressive seafood, but there were a few things I had in mind that ought to have been of high quality, regardless of the season. First, scallops are always sort of "in season." There are two very distinct types of scallops, and NO, I do not mean the difference between sea and bay. Sea scallops are going to come either dry packed or wet packed. The difference is that lovely caramelization that you can clearly see on the above photo.
Wet packed scallops are packed in a combination of phosphates (used for preservation), which causes the scallop to absorb water. You pay for the added water. The added water is also forced out during cooking, which prevents the delicious crust that formed on my scallops. Wet packed scallops look snowy white after cooking, and are shrunken, dry and taste more fishy.
Dry packed scallops are completely natural, with no added anything. They are shucked on board and flash frozen. They are usually thawed properly by a good seafood market. Most importantly, however, they cost less (because of no added water), look fantastic when caramelized, have a buttery but tight-grained texture and taste amazing. The price per pound will be more (these were $18 per lb) but I bought seven scallops for $10, well worth it.
I served these with a saffron rice and finished them with a few drops of black truffle oil. The rice was a short grain rice. I added a 1 to 1 stock mixture of veg stock and chicken stock to cook the rice. To that, I added more onion powder, garlic powder, a pinch of tomato paste (and I mean about an eighth of a teaspoon), salt, white pepper, and saffron. Bring 1 1/2 cup of stock to a rolling boil, add the extras, and the rice, cover and turn down to a simmer. 18-20 minutes later, you should have a risotto textured rice with a nice "juice." Uncover and take off the heat.
For the scallops, add two pads of butter to a non-stick sauté pan with a little oil to prevent the butter from browning. After the pan is good and hot, season with salt and white pepper and put the flattest side of the scallop UP. You will serve the flatter side down, so brown the slanted part. Cook for about four to five minutes on the seared side, or until nicely browned. Turn ad repeat for three minutes. You can then finish them in the oven for about five more minutes. Serve about scoop of the rice, place your scallops down, and finish with a little truffle oil or truffle salt. YUM!