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Pan Seared Scallops image

Pan Seared Scallops

Pan Seared Scallops are a delicious appetizer. And they are very easy to prepare.

Your dinner guests will be impressed by this restaurant-worthy appetizer. The delicate taste of scallops and the nutty butter they have been fried in make a great combination.

Scallops are shellfish. To be more precise, they are molluscs. In French, they are called Coquilles St Jacques. The shell form became the emblem associated with St. James the Great, one of the twelve apostles in the New Testament.  

Throughout Europe you may find pictures of this shell along the different routes and trails that form the Camino de Santiago, leading to Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain. This route is walked by many pilgrims every year. 

For a good size appetizer, assume two to three scallops per person. 

If you buy scallops fresh in the shell, you will have to remove them from the shell and clean them. In particular, you have to remove the "beards". Save the beards if you intend to make a bouillon later, otherwise discard.

Scallops only need a few minutes in the pan. Overcooked scallops lose their tender structure, so be careful with your timing. If you are not sure if your scallops are done, cut one through the middle. It goes without saying that this cut-through scallop will end up on the chef's plate.

I prefer to gently score scallops on both sides, about 3 millimeters deep. This will help cooking them evenly. Also, with a larger surface area, there is more room for seasoning and butter to stick to.

Make sure the scallops are room temperature before frying them. This helps cooking them evenly. Season the scallops with some freshly ground black pepper.

Heat a skillet on high heat. Add butter and wait until the butter has stopped sizzling and is turning brown. At this stage, the butter has a nice, nutty flavor; it is called Beurre Noisette in French cuisine (Technically, what has happened so far is that the water contained in the butter has evaporated and the milk solids have browned).

Add the scallops and fry for about two minutes or until golden brown.

Turn over and fry for another minute or so and until done in the center.

Serve with some lemon or lime and pour the burnt butter over the scallops. The nutty flavor of the burnt butter will contrast nicely with the taste of the scallop.

If you are into presentation, consider serving the scallop on top of a cleaned shell. 

Need some variation? During the last minute of cooking, add some Cognac or Armagnac to the nutty butter and burn off.