There’s something about seared sea scallops that’s so special and fancy. Perhaps because to some of us they are a special treat. Served over this bright green mint and pea puree, they look very regal and fit for a Queen.
Scallops aren’t particularly difficult to prepare. You just need to be very careful not to overcook them, because if you do, they turn out tough and chewy and very unappetizing.
I think the most difficult thing about scallops is finding the correct ones. Dry pack scallops are the very best money can buy and I encourage you to seek them out. In some markets they are also called “diver scallops.” If at all possible you want to avoid scallops that have been soaked in brine. Why? Because they are very difficult to near impossible to brown properly and, to me, they leave a bit of a tangy aftertaste in your mouth. Scallops should smell and taste like the sea – fresh.
This is a great dish for guests because the mint and pea puree can be made the day before and stored, covered, in the refrigerator and reheated at the last minute while you are searing the scallops. The original recipe calls for serving 4 scallops per guest, but if you can find the big diver sea scallops as I’ve shown here, I think 3 per guests is ample. If you use this an appetizer, perhaps even 2 large scallops would be fine. Accompany with a nice chilled glass of white wine or a flute of champagne and raise a glass to the Queen.
Seared Sea Scallops with Mint & Pea Puree
Adapted slightly from The Lazy Gourmet – Magnificent Meals Made Easy by Robin Donovan & Juliana Gallin – serves 4 to 5
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, peeled & minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup fish, chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups (about 10 ounces) frozen green peas
¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, plus more, julienned for garnish
½ cup sour cream (quality low fat sour cream works great)
¼ to ½ teaspoon wasabi paste
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning scallops
¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of about 1 large lemon)
16 large dry packed sea scallops (about 1 ½ pounds), rinsed & patted dry
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until the shallot is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes, taking care not to burn either of them. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add peas and return to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint, sour cream, wasabi paste, sugar, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a countertop blender or food processor), puree the sauce until smooth. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Set aside while you sear the scallops. At this point if you wish, the puree can be made a couple of days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Reheat in a saucepan before serving.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, place the scallops in the pan, making sure they are not touching each other. You may have to sear the scallops in batches. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, without moving them around, until the bottoms form a crisp, caramel-colored crust. Turn and cook the other side the same way. (Cook’s note: Do not turn the scallops until they release from the pan or they will leave their nice sear behind.) Scallops are done when they feel springy, but not overly firm to the touch. Do not overcook or they will be dry and tough.
Reheat the pea puree in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add a touch more broth or water if it is too thick. Spoon onto four serving plates and arrange the scallops on top. Sprinkle with a little julienned mint or slivered green onion tops.