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Seared Scallops: super-classy and ready in minutes

It's hard to believe 4 months have passed since our last post! Rest assured, Megan and I are alive, well, and not on permanent vacation. In fact, we've been hard at work on--wait for it--the next edition of the book! Since it's just the two of us right now (with help from a few willing testers and sharp readers) this website has fallen into disrepair. But fear not: we have resolved to do better, and hope to keep the fresh material coming--albeit less often--along with updates on our progress as we revise the book for a new generation.

So, without further ado, here's a recipe we developed for our wine-making cousins in Napa that will definitely be making its way into the new shellfish chapter: seared sea scallops. Truly, the best way to cook large, expensive scallops is to get a pan ripping hot and put a crust on each side of them before they succumb to the heat and turn rubbery. The center should be warmed through, nothing more. If you're worried about undercooked shellfish and all of that, let us console you with this fact: the part of scallops we eat are simply adductor muscles. Nothing goes in or out of them; they are essentially sterile inside. The worries that attend eating clams, mussels, and oysters regarding seasonal algal blooms, Vibrio, and the like simply do not apply to scallops. You can eat them raw as a crudo if you want (not our favorite) or in a seviche (we're pretty big fans) without any risk.

Beurre blanc, a simple butter-and-white-wine emulsion, is one of our favorite accompiments to an (expensive) ingredient that you want to shine through. Lemon juice provides acidity, but you could easily substitute an equal amount of graperfruit juice or a nice vinegar (sherry comes to mind!).

Please enjoy, and let us extend a warm thank you for your patience as we forge ahead with the new edition!

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon-Herb Beurre Blanc
4 servings

This comes together very quickly. Beurre blanc is delicious, but ephemeral. Be sure to finish making it right before the scallops hit the skillet so that it is still warm when they are done. Alternatively, keep it warm in a double boiler, whisking occasionally, over not-quite-simmering water.

Pat dry with paper towels:

1 ½ pounds dry-packed sea scallops, preferably U10

Lightly season on both sides with salt and let sit on paper-towel-lined plate in the refrigerator. Combine in a small skillet over medium heat:

6 tablespoons dry white wine

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons minced shallots

grated zest of 1 small lemon

Bring to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by three-quarters. Stir in:

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Remove from the heat and add 1 piece at a time, whisking constantly, until the sauce is creamy and pale:

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, preferably unsalted, cut into at least 8 pieces

Add each piece before the previous one has completely melted, or the sauce will separate. If you need a bit more heat to soften the butter, set the pan briefly over very low heat. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and add:

2 tablespoons very finely chopped fennel fronds, parsley, chives, basil, chervil, tarragon, or a combination

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Set aside. Heat in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or clarified butter

Add the scallops to the pan without crowding and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, about 1 to 1½ minutes. Flip with a metal spatula and cook the second side until done, about 1 minute more. Serve immediately, spooning the beurre blanc over the plated scallops. Accompany with a simple green salad and hunks of good, warmed bread.

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