So simple. So yummy.
There are a zillion recipes out there for pan-fried scallops. This is one of mine.
The fresher my ingredients are, the less I usually fuss with my food. This recipe combines a few simple ingredients that complement each other—and still let the individual flavors shine through.
For this recipe, fresh sea scallops are seared in a thyme-infused butter, then drenched in white wine. They simmer for just a few minutes, and the sauce cooks down into a brine-y, buttery, herb-laced reduction.
It’s fresh, fast, easy, and oh-so-delicious.
This article will explain:
+What to look for when buying fresh scallops
+The difference between sea scallops and bay scallops
+How to cook Butter-Fried Sea Scallops
How to buy fresh scallops
When I was a little mouse, my mother would always take me food shopping with her. She’d give me a running commentary on the things we saw, which was really my first culinary training (and to this day, still some of the best).
Mom always told me that she’d never buy seafood from a place that actually *actively* smelled like fish. It’s good, common sense, and she couldn’t be more right.
So, when you head to the fish counter or market, use your sniffer the minute you walk in the door. If your first reaction is, “Something’s fishy!”, it probably is…and you should probably pass.
Fresh sea scallops should smell, well, like the sea. Not like the tide. Certainly not like low tide. They should smell clean and salty.
They should be plump, glossy, and creamy to light pinkish in color, like this:
When you touch them, they should be mildly tacky in the way that raw, skinless chicken breast is�but not gluey, slimy, or sticky like honey.
What’s the difference? Sea scallops vs. bay scallops.
Sea scallops are larger than bay scallops, and are wild caught. They’re not currently overfished, and are a good choice in terms of sustainable seafood. (Bay scallops are the best choice for sustainability, because they’re generally farmed.)
Bay scallops average a half-inch wide, and tend to be slightly more tender than sea scallops, which are typically about 1 1/2 inches wide.
Butter Fried Scallops: The basic technique
This couldn’t be easier. They cook fast, so get the rest of your meal set before you cook your scallops. Make them right before you’re going to serve them.
+Heat butter and thyme in a non-stick pan
+Toss in the scallops and cook for a few minutes
+Flip them over
+Deglaze the pan with a little white wine
+Turn the heat off to let them finish cooking for a minute or two
+Serve and enjoy!
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops
1 lb. fresh sea scallops
2 Tbls. butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 cup of dry white wine
Serves 2 for dinner.
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Infuse the butter with thyme
Set a non-stick pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the pan to get it melting.
Pull the thyme leaves off the sprig and toss them in with the butter. Don’t make yourself crazy with this. A little stem in the pan is just fine. (It’s mainly there for flavor.)
As the pan heats up, the flavor of the thyme will infuse into the butter.
Pick the pan up and tilt it around a little to coat the bottom in butter.
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Add the scallops
Put the scallops in the pan. Space them out.
Leave the heat on medium-high the whole time the scallops are cooking. Once you put the scallops in the pan, don’t move them around until you flip them. This will help them develop a nice crust.
Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook over medium-high heat like this for 2-3 minutes.
When they develop a handsome brown crust on the bottom (take a peek), flip them over gently with a pair of tongs.
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Deglaze the pan
Cook for 1-2 minutes on this side, then pour in the white wine.
The wine will bubble up and let off a poof of steam.
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Kill the heat
Cook for another minute (literally) like this, then turn the heat off. Leave the pan on the burner for another 3-4 minutes.
The residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the scallops�without overcooking them.
During this time, a lot of the wine should evaporate.
How do you know when sea scallops are cooked?
Good question. There’s a fine line between cooking scallops and overcooking them, which can make them rubbery. If you keep an eye on them and fry them hot and fast, you should be just fine.
That said, your final cooking time is going to depend on how large your scallops are. The bigger they are, the longer they’ll take.
When you press on a cooked sea scallop with your finger, it should feel relatively solid�not at all squishy or jiggly. If you cut into one, it should be opaque�but still very moist�throughout (even in the very center), like this:
If it’s still translucent in the middle, leave them in the pan for another minute or two.
Butter-Fried Sea Scallops: Serve and enjoy!
When the scallops are done, transfer them right to your serving plates. Drizzle the remaining pan juices over them. There won’t be much sauce, but what’s left will be deeply flavorful.