If you watch many of those TV cooking competitions, like Top Chef, you know that when the stakes are high and the chefs need to turn out something glamorous, they’re likely to pick one ingredient: Scallops.
I understand why. Scallops are super-easy and super-fast to cook. (It takes less than five minutes to sear one perfectly.) And especially as seafood goes, they appeal to lots of people. Cooked correctly, they have a silky but meaty texture and a very mild flavor that goes with everything.
It’s easy to dress up sea scallops, by drizzling them with a fancy sauce or resting them on a bed of risotto or polenta. But, like many things, I think they’re best when you keep it simple. You can add an herb-butter sauce to this classic dish, but I like them best just served right from the pan, with a squeeze of lemon.
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, 10 to20 per pound
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon wedges, for serving
To prepare scallops, remove small side abductor muscle; it should tear off easily with your fingers. Rinse with cold water, making sure to remove any grit, and pat dry with a paper towel.
Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer, flat-side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops; continue to cook, using large spoon to baste scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking).
Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.