The main course in this meal hardly needs a recipe, so much as an explanation of technique. Sea scallops are as sweet as candy when they’re fresh and briefly cooked over high heat.
Begin by drying the scallops between paper towels. They will shed water as you place them in hot oil so the drier you get them before they hit the oil, the less spattering you’ll have. But you’ll have spattering nonetheless–a splatter guard helps.
After the scallops have been dried, place a large skillet with flared sides on high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Cast iron works well or any seasoned heavyweight frypan is fine. When the oil is smoking, add in the scallops–quickly and gingerly–use tongs or you’ll burn your forearms. They will begin sputtering immediately. Sprinkle generously with salt and immediately place splatter-guard (if using) over the top of the skillet (but don’t cover them with a lid). Although you’ll be tempted to, don’t turn down the heat–it’s supposed to be a short, intense sear (and make a mess of your stove).
After a minute, lift a scallop and see if the underside is golden brown. If not, let them sear for another half-minute and check again. They should be brown and caramelized. Turn and sear on the other side.
Pull the scallops out of the skillet and lay on a serving platter, discarding the cooking oil completely. Once on the serving platter, drizzle the scallops with extra-virgin olive oil and grind fresh black pepper over them. Add a squeeze of lemon, if you like. Serve immediately or eat cold from the fridge the next day.
I’m serving the scallops with the broccoli and cauliflower gratinate below, as well as a chopped salad (see my post on olive oil-poached tuna for the recipe). The breadcrumb mixture from the vegetables gets all over and under the scallops and salad and it all tastes wonderful together.
Gratinate of Broccoli and Cauliflower
This gratinate is, perhaps a good way to get kids to eat their vegetables. It features broccoli and cauliflower, topped with a crisp and briny breadcrumb topping that would make anything taste appealing.
I start by slicing the vegetables so that they have a flat side. Then blanch briefly in boiling salted water.
I then make a topping of breadcrumbs that I’ve made from stale bread. I always have some odd uneaten pieces of bread leftover from meals and I always save them. I accumulate them on a sheetpan that I just leave in the oven (and remove when I need to bake something). I let them become good and stale–devoid of moisture. Sometimes I have bits and pieces of bread sitting around for a month or longer, and they always make a nice fine breadcrumb in the food processor. Whole wheat is fine, but multigrain is not–too many seeds and other extraneous flavors.
These crumbs go into the freezer, then I use them directly from the freezer when I need them. Sometimes I take them out and season them with herbs and salt and pepper, sometimes grated cheese.
Tonight, I’m seasoning the crumbs with parsley, chives (both of which I have chopped up in the freezer), a bit of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Then I’m chopping up a couple of anchovy filets and mashing them into the crumbs. This will give the crumbs a distinctive brininess that works beautifully on these vegetables.
Gratinate of Broccoli and Cauliflower
1 head broccoli, cut into large pieces
1 head cauliflower, cut into large slices
1/4 c olive oil
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 c chopped parsley
1/4 c chopped chives
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 anchovy fillets
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Drop vegetables in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes (do in small batches so as not to prevent the water from returning to a boil for too long). Drain and set aside (can be done ahead).
Make seasoned crumbs by combining crumbs, parsley, chives, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add oil gradually, reserving a tablespoon for drizzling.
Dice anchovies and mash into seasoned crumbs.
On an oiled baking sheet with low sides, lay vegetables and top with crumbs evenly. Drizzle with a bit of oil all over.
Roast for about 45 minutes or until crumbs turn golden.