Some home cooks shy away from scallops for fear of overcooking them. It’s a valid concern, but here are a few tips to take away some of that fear factor. We’re fortunate to have fresh, wild scallops in Alaska. Our weathervane sea scallops are hand-shucked and flash-frozen within hours to ensure their just-caught freshness and flavor and are known for being very large, tender and buttery. It makes for a beautiful dish on holidays, meals with family and dinner parties.
Technique tips: Make sure to use the best-quality, preferably Alaskan, scallops you can find. If using frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator. You want your scallops to be as dry as possible, so use paper towels to remove excess moisture and don’t be afraid of pressing down gently on the scallop while drying them. Just be careful not to press too hard. Sear them in a very hot skillet and let them be; you want a nice brown crust on one side.
As an option, look for reusable scallop shells in kitchen supply stores or online. If you don’t have shells, finish the scallops in a gratin or casserole dish. A final touch of lemon zest and green onion balances out the richness of the cream.
If using thawed frozen scallops, rinse off any ice; pat scallops dry with a paper towel. Place scallops on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet or plate and place, uncovered, in refrigerator. Place clean scallop shells on a sheet pan; set aside. If not using shells, have a large ovenproof dish or small gratin dishes set on a sheet pan at the ready.2.
In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter and add shallot and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes; add garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook another minute. If needed, add another tablespoon butter to pan. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add sherry and let reduce to about 1 tablespoon. Add heavy cream and stir. Cook until cream is reduced and slightly thickened. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed. Turn off heat and reserve.3.
Melt one tablespoon butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add breadcrumbs and almonds and stir, coating crumbs with butter, until golden; set aside.4.
Heat oven to broil on high. Remove scallops from refrigerator. Pat scallops dry a second time to remove all excess moisture. If desired, score the top of each scallop a sharp knife. Season with salt and pepper.5.
Heat a large heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. Add dry scallops scored-side down. If needed, cook in two batches, so you don’t overcrowd the pan and "steam" the scallops. Cook, undisturbed, two minutes.6.
While scallops are cooking, spoon the cream sauce evenly into the four shells. Top with the breadcrumbs. Place two scallops, seared-side up, in each shell.7.
Carefully place the sheet pan into the oven and broil on high for two minutes.
Chef's note: If not using shells, place seared scallops in the baking dish with the sauce and breadcrumbs. Broil on high for two minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with lemon zest, green onion and salmon roe, if desired. Serve warm with lots of bread for sopping up the sauce and a simple green salad with a light lemon vinaigrette.