There are about 300 species of scallops. They live in all salt waters of the world, and all are edible–and although I have not tried all 300 varieties, it is probably safe to surmise that all are delicious. The candy of the sea! They can be pearly right, iridescent rose, or even purple or blue. They are deceivingly easy to cook and intensely delicious
In medieval times, pilgrims venturing to the Galician shrine of Santiago de Compostela, to pray before the body of St. James, would return with scallop shells, proof that they indeed completed the pilgrimage. Galicia was the hub of scallop fishing. The big–five inch long!–scallop shells also made convenient bowls with which to beg for money.
Read on for some scallop basics and recipe ideas. PS Scallops are deceivingly easy to cook. They’ll come out unbelievable, and everyone will think you’re a genius.
Wet scallops are shucked on the boat directly into a container filled with cold water, which protects the scallops. Preservatives like phosphates are often added. The downside is that the scallops absorb water and plump up, potentially giving them a tougher texture. Customers also end up paying for water weight. And we don’t like phosphates in our seafood.
Dry scallops are also shucked on the boat, but they go into a dry container with no water or preservatives. Their flavor is pure and concentrated. They have a shorter shelf-life, but this means that they’re fresher when you buy them. These are the scallops we proudly sell at Fairway.
Diver scallops refer to the method of harvesting—by hand, by actual divers. This is incredibly labor intensive (so the price tag will be the highest), but much friendlier to the earth than dredging the ocean floor with nets. Bay scallops are tiny, tender, and sweet. Sea scallops have more heft and often a bit more intensity of flavor.
- Make scallop ceviche. Bright flavors make an elegant app. The acid “cooks,” the scallops, changing its texture. Experiment with tomato, jalapeno, lemon, lime, cilantro, red onion, avocado, and granny smith apple.
- Sear in a hot, hot pan with plenty of fresh cracked pepper. So many sauce options: herb butter, fragrant pesto, saba or balsamic reduced way down to syrupy goodness (try our recipe for Scallops with Love Potion #9). Serve over lentils, or risotto, or orzo.
- Brush scallops with EVOO and toss ‘em on the grill. Just a few minutes on each side. You’ll get a picture perfect charred crust and moist interior.
- Poach in white wine or champagne. Further reduce the poaching liquid, add whatever herbs you love, and you have a wonderful sauce ready to go.
A helpful hint: scallops cook really fast, so be careful not to overcook. They will come out chewy and tough, and nobody wants that.