As scallops go, Bay Scallops are definitely on the smaller size and more delicate. Unfortunately, this means they can quickly become overcooked and rubbery. This method solves that problem with a fast sear in clarified butter and then flavoring the scallops after they come off the heat with an emulsion of soy sauce, butter, and balsamic vinegar.
- For the Emulsion:
- 2 cups balsamic vinegar
- 1⁄4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- For the Scallops:
- 2 pounds bay scallops
- 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄4 cup Clarified Butter (recipe below)
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Prepare the Brown Butter:
- Place the vinegar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 30 minutes.
- Transfer to a small bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and allow it to melt and turn light brown.
- Remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Gradually whisk the browned butter into the reduced balsamic vinegar.
- Whisk in the soy sauce and season with pepper to taste.
- Reserve the emulsion at room temperature.
Cook the scallops:
- Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season them with the salt and pepper.
- Coat the bottom of 2 large skillets with clarified butter. Place the pans over a medium-high flame and heat until the butter is nearly smoking.
- Divide the scallops between the pans; do not shake the pans or move the scallops around. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and add a little more clarified butter to each pan.
- Cook the scallops until they are deeply brown on one side, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the scallops over, and add a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic to each pan. Allow the scallops to brown slightly on the other side, continuously basting them with the hot butter, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the scallops to a platter with a slotted spoon and reserve in a warm place.
- Add the 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits; remove the pan from the heat when the butter is completely melted.
- Pour an equal portion of the emulsion onto each plate in a wide stripe down the center.
- Place an equal portion of scallops, browned side up, in the center of each plate, spoon the pan drippings around, and serve immediately.
Preparing Clarified Butter:
There are a number of variations on the procedure for making clarified butter, but the end result or goal is always the same: to eliminate the milk solids, which cause the butter to burn and spit when frying or sautéing foods at higher temperatures.
Note: Clarified butter is available in Asian or Indian markets under its Indian name, ghee.
Makes about 1-1⁄2 cups
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
- Cut the butter into 1⁄2-inch slices and place it in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and then come to a boil; this should take about 5 minutes.
- Skim off any foam that rises to the top. The butter should sizzle and crackle; throughout the process, make sure the heat is never so high that the bottom of the pan starts to brown or blacken.
- Lower the heat to keep the butter at a slow, steady boil for another 15 minutes, continuing to skim any surface foam. The bubbles in the butter will become smaller and smaller, ultimately the size of a pinhead. Allow any residual milk solids to settle to the bottom of the pan.
- Carefully pour off the pure, clear, oily butterfat into a holding container, leaving all solids behind. (At this point, you can pass it through a tea strainer or other fine-mesh strainer just to be sure it’s completely clear.)
- Allow the clarified butter to cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
Reprinted with permission from Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country (Clarkson Potter, 2006)
Also try this Town/Country recipe: Carpaccio of Sea Scallops with Sherry Vinegar-Honey Emulsion