If you’re looking for an easy show-stopper of a meal, look no further. These sea scallops take only minutes to make (and with very little prep work) but you’ll feel like you’re eating at a five star restaurant! Savory, salty, sweet, crispy, cheesy– this recipe has it all! I know’ll love it as much as I do. This post is sponsored by Pescadeli seafood.
Let’s Talk About Scallops
What is a scalloP?
I’m going to try not to go too much into taxonomy so… in short, the term “scallop” refers to any one of a number of species of bivalve mollusks (a laterally compressed invertebrate encompassed within two shells) in the family Pectinidae. They can be found all over the world and are eaten in a variety of cuisines. The two most common types of scallops in the US are bay scallops and sea scallops.
How should a scallop look/smell?
Fresh scallops should be a pale white and have a firm feel. They should smell slightly brine-y like the ocean but never fishy or rotten. Avoid scallops that are mushy, have a green/brown color, or have an off-putting smell.
What’s the best way to prepare Scallops?
My personal preference is to sear scallops, although they are also delicious when grilled or baked. In this recipe, we’ll sear the scallops in a hot pan and then baste them with butter for the perfect crisp exterior and soft interior.
Let’s Talk About Ingredients
Scallops: It’s important to have fresh, good quality sea scallops for this recipe.
Polenta: In this recipe I’m using quick cooking polenta but feel free to use your favorite brand.
Rosemary: This recipe calls for fresh rosemary. Unfortunately dried rosemary cannot be substituted. You really need the soft bite that comes from fresh rosemary.
Parmesan: I always splurge on Parmigiano Reggiano. Noting compares to the saltiness and nuttiness– it’s worth it!
Lemon: Fresh lemon juice is so much better than pre-squeezed. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Shallot: I like using shallots because they’re smaller and more mild than traditional onions but you could easily substitute yellow or videlia onions. Just use what you have.
Bacon: I’m using a standard applewood smoked thick-cut bacon. Again, use what you have.
Creme Fraiche: I use a homemade cultured creme fraiche (recipe coming soon) but you can also find it most grocery stores or substitute it for cream cheese or sour cream.
Brown Sugar: I opted for light brown sugar so the molasses doesn’t over-sweeten the jam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where’s the best place to buy scallops?
A: If you live near Pescadeli (located in Bethesda, MD) they’re the only place I’ll buy seafood. If you aren’t in the DMV (District-Maryland-Virginia), try to find a good seafood market where you feel comfortable talking to the fish monger about the seafood origins, freshness, etc.
Q: What is bacon jam?
A: Bacon jam is a traditional southern condiment found accompanying seafood and burgers. It’s typically made from bacon, onions, sugar, and vinegar.
Q: What is polenta? Can I use grits instead?
A: Polenta is a dish made using coarsely ground corn. From my experience, there isn’t a huge difference between grits and polenta. Either one will work perfectly in this recipe.
The Process: Remove the Abductor Muscle
Occasionally you’ll find scallops with the abductor muscle still in tact. It’s a small square muscle on the side of the scallop. It’s completely edible but it’s tough and chewy so I prefer to remove it.
The Process: Sear the Scallops
For best results, you’ll need a heavy bottomed pan such as a cast iron or stainless steel pan– nonstick pans won’t produce the same results. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and wait until it begins to ripple. The oil should be almost smoking. If it starts to smoke, carefully remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few seconds before resuming.
Add the scallops to the pan (make sure not to overcrowd the pan) in a single layer and let them sear for one minute. If the scallop sticks when you try to flip it, let it continue cooking for another 30 seconds before trying again. As the crust develops, it will naturally release from the pan.
Once you’ve flipped the scallops, add the butter, garlic, and rosemary. Carefully tilt the pan toward you and use a small spoon to pour the melted butter on top of the scallops. Be careful– the handle will likely be hot.
Other Seafood Recipes You’ll Love
Seared Scallops with Bacon Jam and Rosemary Polenta
For the Bacon Jam
- 1/2 cup raw chopped bacon about 3 slices
- 1 large shallot chopped about 1/3 cup
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
For the Polenta
- 2 cups polenta cooked according to package directions
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
For the Scallops
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 pound fresh sea scallops
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 garlic clove smashed
Make the Bacon Jam
- Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan.
- Next, add the shallot (leave the bacon grease in the pan) and sauté 2-3 minutes, or until the shallot is soft and starting to brown. Add the apple cider vinegar and water to to deglaze the pan– make sure to scape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the brown sugar.
- Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer until the water has been evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Make the Polenta
- Cook the polenta according to the package directions (cooking time and water amounts will vary). When the polenta has finished cooking, add the parmesan, creme fraiche, and rosemary. Salt and pepper to taste.
Sear the Scallops
- Lay the scallops on a paper towel and pat them dry. Remove any abductor muscles (the small squares on the side of the scallop) and season them lightly with salt and pepper.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and wait until it begins to ripple. The oil should be almost smoking. If it starts to smoke, carefully remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few seconds before resuming.
- Add the scallops to the pan (make sure not to overcrowd the pan) in a single layer and let them sear for one minute. If the scallop sticks when you try to flip it, let it continue cooking for another 30 seconds before trying again. As the crust develops, it will naturally release from the pan.
- Once you’ve flipped the scallops, add the butter, garlic, and rosemary. Carefully tilt the pan toward you and use a small spoon to pour the melted butter on top of the scallops. Be careful– the handle will likely be hot.
- Place half the polenta in a large bowl, top with scallops and bacon jam. Finish with something fresh– arugula, chopped parsley, or micro greens are all good options. Serve immediately.
P.S. I ate this recipe at my wedding!
This is a great recipe, I’ll just say that. But I may be a little biased in favor of the scallops and bacon jam combo. When I married my husband, Samuel, last year, it took forever to get the menu perfect– after all, a food blogger’s menu has to be perfect. However, the first time we tasted these scallops we knew we had to have them. They absolutely flew off the appetizer table! Our caterer said it was the one thing she had the most trouble keeping full. After all, a crisp and juicy scallop seared to perfection with salty bacon and sweet onions– there is truly nothing better. I added my own spin with the parmesan rosemary polenta and trust me, it lives up the the challenge.
Let’s Talk about Pescadeli
Pescadeli is an amazing seafood market in Bethesda, MD! Growing up in South Carolina, we always had an abundance of fresh, local caught seafood at our fingertips but when I moved to Washington, DC that wasn’t the case– or so I thought. Before I discovered Pescadeli, we relied on our grocery store for seafood and I have to say… it wasn’t great. Eventually seafood fell out of our diet and our new year’s resolution for 2020 was to eat more seafood. So naturally I started looking into seafood markets near me and I hit the jackpot with Pescadeli! After being a loyal customer for a few months, I reached out to their team about doing some restaurant photography (check out my portfolio from their shoot here). Now I’m so exited to share our next collaboration: a Seafood Series! This week we’ll be highlighting some of the best seafood Pescadeli has to offer! Are you hungry? I know I am!