This past weekend we received a call from KD’s dad. He had been out scalloping that morning and had done quite well, even offering to give us some, provided that we shuck our own. Although neither of us had actually shucked a scallop before, we jumped in the car and drove over, because, hey, free scallops!
On the Vineyard, when someone says scallops, they usually mean Atlantic Bay Scallops, as Martha’s Vineyard is one of the last places that supports a viable commercial fishery. Bay scallops are smaller, sweeter and infinitely more rare than the common sea scallop. And while we’re at it, let’s get something straight. The word “scallop” is properly pronounced “scohl-up”, rhyming with trollop, as opposed to “skal-op”, rhyming with gallop. See this Merriam-Webster entry for an audio sample, but disregard the second, incorrect sample. As good New Englanders, we take the pronunciation of mollusks very seriously, don’t even get us started on quahogs.
As it turns out, compared to oysters or clams, scallops are relatively easy to shuck, and after a few (backwards) pointers from KD’s left-handed dad, EA started to get the hang of it. KD was a natural, perhaps inheriting this skill from her mother, who is a fast shucker but has trouble filling up a bowl due to her “one for me, one for the pot” policy.
We love fresh bay scallops raw, but are often at a loss when it comes to deciding what else to do with them. There are plenty of good recipes out there for sea scallops, but not nearly as many for their smaller cousins. Due to their size, attempting to give them a good crusty sear usually results in an overcooked, chewy scallop. They also have a very subtle sweet and creamy flavor that can be easily overshadowed by other ingredients. We think it’s a crime to waste such a scarce and beautiful ingredient on recipes that don’t do it justice.
Hoping to solve this dilemma, we turned to a cookbook that was recently given to us; Dave “Pops” Masch’s Cooking the Catch. Mr. Masch writes a seafood-cooking column in the locally published fishing magazine, On the Water, so we figured he would have some insight into handling this local specialty. We weren’t disappointed, finding twice as many bay scallop recipes on a single page than most cookbooks contain in their entirety. “Pops” also extols the virtue of bay scallops at some length, going so far as to call them the “tastiest of shellfish”.
The first recipe we tried was for Scallop Seviche (his spelling).
1 lb bay scallops (fresh or frozen)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 tbs cilantro, minced (parsley may be used)
2 scallions, minced (green and white parts together)
1 tsp soy sauce (optional)
We tossed the scallops in a bowl with the scallions and fruit juice and let the mixture sit in the fridge (according to the recipe it should marinate for 2-6 hours). After two hours, we pulled it out and added the cilantro and soy sauce. Tasting it, we thought it was fine, but didn’t really feel that it was a ceviche yet, as the scallops seemed unchanged from their raw state and the flavors all remained separate. We were a bit worried about putting it back in the fridge, as we had already added the cilantro and soy sauce, but decided to give it a shot. After sitting for four hours, the dish was much, much better. The flavors had melded together nicely, with more of the onion-like scallions coming through, providing a counter-point to the sweetness of the scallops. The citrus was just right, enough to slightly firm up the scallops, but not so tart as to overpower them. The cilantro provided just a bit of herbal-garden flavor that really brought everything together. It was even better after six hours. As far as we’re concerned, this dish is the perfect way to showcase scallops, enhancing them rather than covering them up. Score one for Mr. Masch.
Ask almost anyone on The Vineyard what to do with bay scallops and inevitably, the answer will be, “fry them in a pan with some butter”. Going with that theory, we decided to try Mr. Masch’s recipe for Bay Scallops Sautéed with Butter and Garlic.
1 lb. bay scallops
3 tbs butter, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbs parsley, minced
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
We started by melting two tablespoons of butter in a pan, adding the garlic, salt, paprika, and pepper. We then sautéed the scallops over medium-high heat until they just started to pick up some color (about four minutes), stirring them so they didn’t overcook. Keeping them warm on a heated plate, we added the parsley, lemon juice and the final pat of butter to the pan, mixing until it was heated through, to use as a sauce. The recipe calls for serving the scallops on top of a bed of plain rice and tiny peas, but KD has bad childhood memories of cooked peas, so we just went with the rice. Barely cooked through and still tender, the scallops were perfectly done. The paprika added a small amount of color and spice, without being too much. The brightness of the lemon juice and garlic contrasted well with the rich flavors of the scallops and butter, and the parsley brought a nice hit of color to everything. Once again, this recipe brought out the sweet and mild flavor of scallops without getting too fancy and masking it. Both of these are great examples of recipes that actually reinforce the flavors of bay scallops, rather than overwhelming them. Both will be added to our repertoire.
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