What to do with your whole farmed scallops
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TABLE of CONTENTS
FOREWORD by Barton Seaver
Butter-Braised PenBay “Popcorn”
The Mediterranean Sea
Venetian Crudo Style
Scallops in Champagne Butter Sauce
Scallops with Fish sauce
The Middle East
Scallops with hummus
Scallop Stuffed Artichokes
Mains and Soups
Principessa con Bucatini
Macaroni and Cheese
Queen scallop Mash
Ireland and Scotland
Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand
Ritzy Scallop Pie
Clam Fry Scallops
Scallop chowder, Scallop stew
Scallop Parsnip Bisque
Scallops in Noodle Nests
Lobster and Scallop Risotto
Scallop and Lobster Mac and Cheese
Gluten-free Lobster and Scallop Mac and Cheese
Kelp Stir Fry
Not Quite Hollandaise
Simple Scallops on Seaweed
Scallop Lobster Cakes
Persian Eggs and Scallops
Scallop-stuffed Mushroom Caps
Simple Scallop Dip
Scallops on Polenta
Vietnamese Noodle Salad Bowl
Beet-pickled Eggs and Friends
Better in Butter
Scallop Roe Caviar
Scallop or Caviar Toast
Reduced Cream Sauce
CHEF’S FLAVOR TIPS
Wild vs. Farmed
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ever since I was a little boy I’ve been fascinated with the taste of place. I’ll credit this interest to Euell Gibbons, the great forager, author, and TV personality. A wild man in his own rite, he had an instinctive ability to find all things delicious underfoot wherever his paces fell. This required an intimate knowledge of a place, its ecosystems, seasons, and migrations. As such, though his pursuit may have been dinner, he was celebrating the environment and our ability to live deliciously within it.
In recent years, we the eaters have become increasingly aware of the impacts that our pursuit of food has had on the environment. And the result is that sustainability is now a fundamental ingredient in modern cuisine. Chefs, such as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, have led this charge through a dedication to quality ingredients and shifted our focus towards producers who work in harmony with the environment. If we care about the ingredient, we must concern ourselves with the place that ingredient came from. The sustainable seafood movement was born from this ethic and as a response to environmental and economic disasters such as the collapse of the once mighty New England cod fishery. Over the past decades we have witnessed a tide of abuses and missteps in both fisheries and fish farming. But we have also seen proof that we can do it right; the Maine lobster fishery is a prime example of stewardship. Aquaculture, the farming of fish and shellfish has also charted a course towards responsible methods. For example, the farming of scallops, clams, mussels, and oysters is a testament to our ability to not just sustain what we eat but further to use what we eat to improve the health of the environments that sustain us. This optimism and opportunity sounded a siren song that charted my career and drew us to Maine where we now proudly live on her ragged and delicious coast. I’ve come to believe that sustainability is ultimately the act of being a good neighbor, and Mainers are the very best of neighbors.
When one pines for Maine’s clean coast and pointed firs it evokes Proustian memories of a freshening tide carrying the scent of boiled lobster. The mind’s eye casts out from the shore to see the many-colored buoys bobbing in the wake of the particular profile of lobster boats zipping about. A brief glance at a map reveals hundreds of small towns dotting the coast as though they were buoys themselves, communities moored to the sea. The names of these towns are often eponymous with many of the residents. It’s more common than not to find 4th, 5th, 6th generations of a name still captaining the helm. Piety and a legendary work ethic define the character of this place. This is why Maine is a standard bearer of sustainable seafood. And while Maine sustains her history, she is also a hot-(sea)bed of innovation as evidenced by the evolution of aquaculture in her waters.
The famously jagged Maine coast (“You can’t get there from here.”) provides a perfect environment for the farming of fish and shellfish. Maine is to aquaculture what California’s Central Valley or Iowa’s black soil is to agriculture. The last time we got to invent a food system was 10,000 years ago when agriculture first planted the seeds of modern society. In this moment we are witnessing the natal age of an essential part of humankind’s future. And the architects of this new food system are among us, zipping around Penobscot, Casco, Frenchman’s on those very same lobster boats and bearing the same names as the towns their forebearers founded. This is the next chapter of Maine’s marine heritage. And it’s being written by people like Marsden Brewer, his wife Donna and son Bob—entrepreneurs, tinkerers, town selectmen, fishermen, neighbors, visionaries, Mainers. This family is pioneering scallop farming, adapting methods and technologies used in other parts of the world and sustainably applying them to the unique conditions of the Gulf of Maine. And they follow in the wake of other shellfish farming industries pioneered here by legendary names, the founding fathers/mothers of Maine’s maritime future. The state motto of Maine is “Dirigo,” or “I direct.” We take this to heart, and others follow our lead.
Sustainability is not just the responsibility of those who produce the food we eat. We the eaters must also consume sustainably. Though we know how to sustainably farm shrimp, an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet will simply never be sustainable. We must eat with moderation, fill our plates and fuel our lives with a diet of mostly plant-based foods. Animal protein portions should be moderate in size. When we raise or catch seafood we should respect the animal and the environment by using all that we can of the creature, nose to tail fin. And the recipes herein provide us inspiration to do just that with the remarkable scallops from PenBay. Please note, there is good reason why only the muscle portion of wild scallops is eaten.* This practice is so prevalent in America that most eaters have no idea that the animal itself is anything more than the taut bullet of white meat. But innovations in farming scallops now enable us to enjoy more of the delicious bivalve. A scallop is in fact much like an oyster, clam and mussel of which we eat the entire animal. And like those familiar favorites, with farmed scallops we have the opportunity to delight in sustainably eating sustainably raised seafood. Sometimes delicious discovery doesn’t require us to find something new, just to look anew at ingredients we think we already know.
Being that whole scallops are an unknown ingredient for most Americans means we need a tour guide and that is what this book provides. Marnie Reed Crowell’s recipe ideas are gathered from around the globe, hailing from culinary cultures that have long celebrated every part of Aphrodite’s favorite shellfish. Regions are represented by “recipes” that read like missives scribbled into a travel diary and inspire in narrative style. Together they offer a compelling compendium of how an ingredient, ubiquitous in the world’s oceans, finds local orientation in the cuisines and cultures of coastal communities.
This book is a delicious postcard from Vacationland. It’s a snapshot of our future cooked up in worldly style. Even more, it’s an impassioned call to eaters to support an industry that will stand sure and sentinel as steward of our shared environment.
As Euell Gibbons opined, “it is easy to lament good days passed, but let’s not mourn best of times because we still live in them.”
So let’s take a seat and discover anew what is delicious under foot (in this case flipper.)
Let us eat with care and be mindful of the impacts our choices have on the environment and our bodies.
Let us eat with joy that we may continue to participate in the sustenance of the seas.
And let us eat together to remind us of what unites us all on this blue, beautiful, bountiful planet.
No doubt as long as there have been hungry people and there have been scallops in all of the world’s oceans, people have come up with delicious ways to eat them. However, since the decline and subsequent management of our New England scallop fisheries, only the 4” or larger wild caught scallops have been available. If you do an online search for scallop recipes, what you will get is a number of delicious ways to cook and eat what is often referred to as the meat, that big muscle called the adductor which holds the top and bottom shells together.
Now that sea farmers like Marsden and Bob Brewer are successfully raising scallops in the healthy Penobscot Bay ecosystem off the Stonington archipelago, we have a new option — whole sea scallops.
This collection of recipe suggestions reflects food combinations that have been traditional around the world for many generations, but what's YOUR style? Are you looking to get your kids to fall in love with whole scallops? Thread the scallops on skewers interwoven with bacon and grill. Scallop tacos? Sure! You really love Surf & Turf? Butter-braised little scallops are perfect companions for that grilled steak. Or give yourself the tasty comfort of an Alfredo-style pasta with whole farmed scallops.
When you cook your everyday family meals, think how you might substitute sea scallops for the protein. That opens up a whole new world of recipes. You will find that recipes that feel everyday to you help close any imagined gap between what is possible for chefs and for home cooks. The descriptions in this collection are not long so you should have no trouble reading through and then assembling the ingredients before you launch into preparation. Taste, taste, and modify according to your own preferences.
Welcome to the world of whole farmed sea scallops. Do notice that we are talking sea scallops, not bay scallops which are a different species, an entirely different thing.
Whole or roe-on scallops MUST be purchased through a certified dealer operating under carefully monitored environmental conditions. Under no circumstances whatsoever should one assume that it's safe to eat any part of wild caught scallops except the adductor muscle.
All of the scallop is edible but you will want to remove the small bean-shaped stomach sac, the digestive organ, which is actually encased in a black gland.
If you begin at the side which seems to have less structure, the gland will cleanly lift away. Pinch it off or use scissors to make a neat quick job of this “gutting”. The flat shell also makes a great knife to do this as well as removing the scallop from the shell.
The roe sacs in the larger scallops are orange in females (shell at right) and white in males (shell at left) and are considered a delicacy. Notice that the mantles in the shells here exhibit various colors. This does not affect the taste at all.
Perhaps fresh scallops are available on a day when it is not convenient for you. It is not recommended to keep them in the refrigerator more than a day or two. In any case they must be allowed to breathe. Do not be alarmed when you see that many of them are slightly open. Young scallops don’t always snap closed when you touch their soft mantles quite like mussels and clams often do. They will open wide when they are cooked and the whole cooked scallops are likely to fall out of the shell although you may have to take a flat knife to scrape any remaining adductor attachment.
There are additional notes on handling and freezing your live farmed scallops at the end of this recipe collection.
THE SMALLEST —
Because these certified farmed live petite scallops vary in size according to their age — usually 1 ½” to 3 ½ “— one thinks of procedures rather than precise recipes. All sizes have adductor muscles — that part familiar from wild-caught scallops — with the flavor we associate with scallops. The bodies of small scallops have a nearly sweet flavor; the bodies of the mid-sized scallops are mellow, and the flavor of the largest scallop bodies is somewhat more assertive. Just as peanuts and cashews and almonds have much in common but are not quite interchangeable, so too with various sizes of whole farmed scallops.
Whether you are planning to make starters or comfort food you will need to shuck the scallops and remove the digestive gland. Rinse off the shells and remove any excess barnacles and seaweed growth. Add an inch of your liquid of choice. Perhaps add a steamer basket. Add the scallops and cover with a lid. Heat just long enough to make the shells pop open. Even the largest size farmed scallops almost never need more than 4 minutes cooking. (Raw scallops are also quite easy to shuck by inserting a knife in the narrow space at the hinge.)
Overcooking makes scallops of all sizes tough. The cooking process releases delicious fluids that make a great component of dipping sauces. One has to be extremely careful about spicing in order not to overwhelm the delicate taste which is akin to what is so special about lobster claws and more subtle than the flavors of clams and mussels.
Butter-Braised "PenBay “Popcorn”
Even the smallest size Petites cook wonderfully by what is essentially braising in butter. You need add no water to cook them. Use a heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven or a wok. Heat a 1/4” layer of melted butter. You will be surprised how small an amount that is for most of your pots. Toss in the scallops. Cover with a lid and cook for one minute making sure the heat is not enough to brown the butter. Open the lid and stir the scallops. Cook one more minute and check to see that most of the shells have opened. Let the scallops cool to room temperature. The resulting sauce in the bottom of the pan is a wonderful dipping sauce. You could also have seasoned it with a little garlic, lemon or wine.
Serve a platter of these with small container (lobster butter dishes?) of the resulting dipping sauce. You will find that with a little practice you can insert scissors or flat shells as knives to remove the gut leaving the whole scallop still attached inside the shell. Or for an informal occasion, demonstrate gutting and let your guests shuck and “gut” their own. There you have it: Popcorn Petite Scallops. Like peanuts or popcorn you will want to just keep eating them!
Low Fat Petites
Instead of butter-braising — delicious but admittedly a bit messy — steaming in a steamer basket is a very efficient way to prepare petites for any preparation. As above you need only a shallow layer of liquid to accomplish one minute or cooking, almost certainly not more than a cup of water for this method. Give the scallops a good stir while cooking in your covered pot and after a minute all will have gaped open for easy gutting. The liquid is now water plus scallop juice. It has a distinctive color and delicious flavor. At this point you may serve with a little butter added to the liquid for your dipping pleasure.
A fair number of our scallop dishes rely on some rewarming. You can add flavor and rewarm at the same time by browning butter in a pan. When the butter begins to color, add your scallops. Allow them to heat but not to cook further. You want the scallops to remain tender.
Once you have mastered the technique of steaming petite scallops why not show off your inventiveness as a creative chef? Not quite an appetizer and not solely for restaurants, here is your opportunity to showcase the petite scallops and their inherent liquid in all the subtle superiority of whole farmed scallops.
The flavor of these is slightly richer than the tiny ones so these are ideal for many other appetizer recipes with more ingredients. Not surprisingly, the best flavor combinations are apt to come from classic regional traditions. Pictured here are Lebanese-inspired scallops with artichokes, hummus, and Manchego cheese. Quite surely cooks have been experimenting with whatever native plants and animals were found locally ever since humans evolved. Just as surely, the best tricks were passed along. Traditional recipes — it's grandmothers all the way back!
WESTERN END OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
Currently it is fashionable to refer to appetizers as starters. But when is a start not a starter? When it’s tapas or petiscos. Tasty tidbits or small plates in Spain and Portugal are the whole meal, the savory assortment of cheeses, cured meats, seafoods, and olives etc are not followed by main courses.
All-purpose appetizer for any size and amount of scallops
In flat pan or wok put some butter, wine and garlic or lemon. Add a little water if your scallops are small or many. Cover and cook scallops in a steamer basket just until they open, from 1 to 4 minutes according to number and size. Cool, remove from shells, and gut the scallops. Dip them into the rich cooking liquid and shake off any excess liquid. Place any number of scallops you like onto a shell or a simple cracker such as Sesmark Savory Rice Thins. Top with a dusting of grated Manchego sheep’s milk cheese or a similar hard mild cheese. Any moderately sharp, rather hard cheese such as Pecorino or Parmigiano-Romano makes a fairly satisfactory substitute. Garnish as you wish.
For a more Portuguese flavor consider Port Scallops. Braise the steam shucked and gutted scallops in a ¼” deep mixture of butter and olive oil seasoned with garlic, lemon, and some tawny port or any other sweet red wine. Add smoky paprika and red peppers diced small to the scallop-flavored braise. Cook just enough to soften the peppers. This is traditionally served over rice but for an appetizer pulse very briefly in a blender and serve the mixture on rice crackers. Dust liberally with minced parsley if you wish. Those same tasty juices that make the rice so luscious will make the crackers soggy if you dally over eating them.
The observant cook will suspect a history lesson embedded in traditional recipe collections. Remember studying about Prince Henry the Navigator who launched the Age of Discovery by sending his Portuguese explorers sailing off across the unknown seas? While seeking to establish trade monopolies and wrest control over shipping lanes from Muslim cultures, the Portuguese navies also brought back from Brazil South American peppers- both sweet and hot- as well as tomatoes. The ancestor tomatoes from South America were mostly small and of various colors not unlike today’s cocktail tomato assortments which would also make a nice addition to the Port Scallop braise.
We know that ancient Egyptians were using garlic, native to Central Asia. Romans used the native plants they found around them such as basil, rosemary, bay, dill, and thyme, all characteristic of the cuisines of the area today. By the first century CE lemons had come via shipping from India, Burma, and China. Venice was a thriving center of the spice trade from the Far East. The simple yet elegant Venetian style of preparing scallops cannot be bettered even today.
Crudo is Italian for Raw. Neither fresh raw nor frozen raw whole princesses are very appealing, but a brief steaming and shucking and gutting will prove more satisfactory in flavor and mouth feel. Think of these lightly braised ever-so-delicate scallops as Venetian crudo-style. Briefly braise the gutted scallops — especially those that are large enough to have roe — in butter, olive oil and perhaps the faintest whiff of garlic. Consider using a Meyer lemon for its milder flavor. Remember, these princess scallops are delicate and do not like to be overwhelmed. Crudo usually refers to raw fish with a variety of Italian spices but this crudo-style scallop dish is a more subtle thing altogether. You may wish to dust lightly with parsley. (You also will probably be quite happy using scallops that have been prepared and frozen in the olive oil/garlic/lemon Venetian broth described above.) Serve on the half shell with a slice of lemon as garnish.
The web is full of recipes for Coquilles St.-Jacques from everyone from Julia Child to our modern TV chefs. They call for a base of sautéed mushrooms dressed with a cheese sauce and all are for the large adductor muscle of the scallop. Instead of all those recipes, here is a summary of the essential procedure. Make a cooking stock of 1 part vermouth or dry white wine or sherry to 2 parts water with a bit of diced onion or shallots, garlic, a dash of lemon juice and a little parsley, bay, and/or thyme. Poach finely-diced mushrooms — cremini, chanterelles, or good old grocery store button mushrooms — in this stock for 5 minutes and then add the scallops for a minute or two until they open and release their juices to the stock.
Shuck and gut the scallops. The mid-to-larger-sized Princess scallops have a stronger flavor than the smaller ones and hold up to the flavors in this recipe well. If you wish a cream sauce component, melt butter and make a roux with flour being careful not to brown the flour. (Wondra works well). Stir in equal parts of the cooking liquid and Half & Half or cream and pour this cream sauce over the bed of mushrooms and scallops in the shells. With or without the cream sauce, reduce the stock and pour a bit on the mushrooms and scallops. Dust the mound of scallops with buttered bread crumbs and grated Swiss cheese or Gruyere and broil until lightly browned. Obviously this is not finger food but an elegant first course.
Scallops in Champagne Butter Sauce is a somewhat simpler but no less elegant presentation, a mild sauce which does not overwhelm the flavor mid-sized scallops. You will find any number of instructions for this sauce online but do not be intimidated — it will emulsify. In a cast iron frying pan poach-braise your scallops in butter with finely-minced shallots or sweet onion just until the shells open. Shuck and gut the scallops and strain the broth.
Use any white wine, sparkling wine such as Prosecco, or a dry champagne. For 1/2 cup of wine add the scallop-infused braising liquid. In that same frying pan, simmer rather vigorously to reduce the wine and braising sauce by half, which takes just a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream or Half & Half and reduce by half again whisking constantly. Stir in 2 tablespoons of cold butter cut into small cubes and whisk till the sauce emulsifies, adding more cold cubes as necessary. (You may wish to season this lightly with lemon, salt and pepper, perhaps a mild heresy since the braising sauce is probably seasoning enough.)
Do not let the sauce get too hot or it may “break”. You may well want to keep it warm in a bowl set over a pot of hot water — an improvised bain-marie — until you are ready to serve. Pour over the room temperature butter-braised scallops which have been arranged in groups in the curved bottom shells of any previously cleaned scallop shells of appropriate serving size being careful not to swamp the scallops.
This sauce is often suggested for salmon. Consider serving gently fried salmon which gets covered in the champagne sauce, the main course following an individual scallop shell appetizer for each guest. Asparagus is what high-end chefs call a ‘flavor pal’ for scallops and salmon and champagne.
EASTERN END OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
One of the most ancient recipes for scallops that we have comes from Greece where octopus and shell fish were cooked in olive oil with onions and garlic. A fermented fish sauce — garos in Greece; garum in Rome — provided a hit of umami. Add a touch of white wine vinegar and black pepper and you will have the perfect recipe for an Oil and Vinegar Dressing with a dash of modern bottled fish sauce. Use it on a spinach salad topped with your steamed and perhaps lightly braised scallops.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzos, are native to the Middle East. Sesame is one of the world’s oldest domesticated plants with wild relatives found across Africa and India. For the simplest, rather Pan-Arabic treatment, use your favorite grocery store hummus or in a blender mix tahini, a little water to thin it, and a little crushed garlic, lime, lemon, or orange juice until smooth. Spread on rice crackers or other plain crackers and garnish with fine slivers of fried onion, chopped pine nuts, and butter basted scallops. Remember to keep the flavoring amounts restrained so you can taste the scallops.
Braise mid-sized scallops in olive oil and a little lime juice seasoned with thyme, smoked paprika and black pepper. Serve on tahini (see above) in half shells or on crackers and garnish with chopped parsley.
Scallop Stuffed Artichokes
This is styled after a popular mezze based on a fish stew called tagen, usually made from a baked white-fleshed fish such as sea bass. Even canned tuna fish has been pressed into service for this dish so it is not that much of a stretch to make these with scallops on artichokes.
You could cook your own fresh baby artichokes or use frozen artichoke bottoms from a Middle Eastern grocery store. Cook according to package directions. The more commonly available frozen artichoke hearts would do if you lay them sliced side up. Use canned artichoke hearts if that is more convenient. But give them a rinse to remove any brine — you need to work to make their presence neutral so the Princess scallops are the highlight. Cut a cross in the top of each artichoke, extending the cuts part way down to open out each artichoke heart more like a blossom. A good brand of tahini such as Al Arz Tahini Sesame Seed Paste makes a difference. Choose your favorite brand and spice it according to your taste.
Cut a large onion in half and slice into crescent slivers. A red onion is perhaps most traditional, but use yellow, sweet, or Vidalia onions as you wish. Heat them slowly in olive oil till just caramelized, golden, not burnt brown.
Arrange the artichoke bottoms or halves in a heat-proof dish and spoon the fried onions onto the artichokes. In a small bowl, gradually add water (perhaps ultimately an amount equal to the amount of tahini you decide to use) to about a ¼ cup of tahini. Add lemon or orange juice to taste and stir past the curdle stage till the mixture is smooth. You are aiming for the consistency of rich cream. Pour this sauce onto the onions and artichokes.
Heat for 10 minutes in 350˚ oven. Remove from the oven and top with any number of shucked, gutted, braised scallops. They look particularly attractive on their side, that is with the ruffles of the mantles uppermost.
Optionally, dust with a garnish of chopped parsley. Serve at room temperature. You might season with salt, pepper, cumin or turmeric, but remember, the more you add, the less you can taste the delicate Princess scallops.
Call them Kings or Queens as they do throughout the British Empire, or simply larger scallops. Their flavor is slightly more like that of clams. Around the world various scallop species are eaten at various ages and sizes. In other English-speaking countries the largest sized scallops are called Kings and these are more than 4” across the shells. Next come medium-sized Queens and finally, the smallest, designated Princess, usually 1 1/2”. You will find the smallest of our whole farmed scallops are the sweetest and work well in almost any recipe. The following recipe suggestions are for the larger farmed scallops whether your farmed scallops are mid-sized or as large as wild scallops.
MAINS OR SOUPS
Principessa con Bucatini
Currently Cacio e Pepe, a Roman dish of pasta, black pepper and a finely-grated hard cheese is quite the rage. Foodies may debate the proper mixture of Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or even Manchego. Americans are always inventing their own riffs on Italian recipes so how about Principessa con Bucatini? Let foodies debate whether Italians ever, ever, ever combine seafood with cheese (the combination is umami rich!). Give this dish of pasta with assorted farmed scallops, butter, pepper, and cheese a try and you will find that controversy quite irrelevant.
Pasta of choice could well be tonnarelli, linguine, fettuccine, or spaghetti, but bucatini offers a nice contrast in texture to the scallops. Steam, gut and then lightly butter braise an assortment of scallops, keeping the buttery brine to pour over the pasta which you have cooked al dente according to package directions, in the neighborhood of 10 minutes, and lubricated with a dollop of good olive oil. Add a few grinds of black pepper and top with the scallops and there you have a royal dish indeed.
This should inspire you to come up with your own favorite combinations of butter-braised scallops and rice dishes, either risotto or pilaf concoctions, sauced simply with the scallop braising juices, a cream sauce or Alfredo sauce, any additions light in flavor.
Greek Macaroni and Cheese μακαρόνια ογκρατέν
pronounced mah-kah-ROHN-yah oh-grah-TEN
Here’s a recipe older than the Internet, received from a Greek woman in Canada. From a small handwritten recipe notebook now falling apart, dating back to days when Calgary, Alberta, was probably one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth — hardly anyone was actually from there. With a university and oil fields, the women from all over liked to shop at the various ethnic markets where the bill was still made out in their native language. Getting together to cook was a great way to get acquainted, and this dish was shared.
Of course back then and there no scallops were available so this was just μακαρόνια ογκρατέν, makaronia ograten. One made it in a rather shallow layer in a rectangular pan so it was easily cut into traditional squares for serving. One might even have been able to get some of the traditional cheeses: mizihra, kefalotyri, or certainly pecorino, or feta and white cheddar which make adequate substitutes. With the arrival of whole farmed scallops the story changes. The pale cheeses and pasta are combination just whispering "Add some dainty scallops” and you have a worthy rival for Lobster Mac.
Cook 1 cup of dry pasta, preferably a short macaroni with twisted ribs in boiling water for 4 minutes. That will give you 2 cups of slightly undercooked pasta. Now for the ograten part of the recipe which you will recognize is not simply a white sauce of the standard mac and cheese.
Separate 2 eggs and beat the whites moderately stiff. Fold in the beaten yolks and add ½ cup Half & Half and ½ cup grated cheese. Since we are already iconoclasts, any mixture of white cheddar, feta or even cheese curds will do. Add one or two dozen steam shucked and gutted Princess scallops (about ½- 1 cup of whole scallops). Top with ½ cup bread crumbs, skillet-browned in 2 tablespoons of butter. Since the crumbs are already a lovely golden color, you do not need to overcook the casserole to get a nice topping.
Bake at 375˚ for 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares to serve.
Since it is rather challenging to cut squares from a dish made with little round scallops, why not go the whole non-traditional route and use a round casserole or even individual ovenproof dishes.
BRITISH COAST, SCOTLAND, IRELAND, WALES
Since unsurprisingly there are scallop species Down Under, the British Empire cooks have taken their recipes with them. Every cook of course has their own personal technique.
Welsh Queen Scallop Mash
Boil peeled potatoes and mash them, adding enough Half & Half to make a slightly stiff mash. Meanwhile, steam shuck and lightly braise some queen size (medium size) scallops in butter with minced shallots or sweet onion and a little vermouth. Stir one egg yolk and the scallop liquid into the mashed potatoes and top this potato nest with the scallops.
The Irish version of this Scallop pie is essentially a seafood version of shepherd’s pie. Cover prepared scallops and sautéed sliced mushrooms and a little sherry with mashed potato. Brush the mashed potato top with butter and put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Top with a scallop and mushroom garnish if you wish. Serve with a pint of good Guinness stout.
Scottish Scallop Pie might be any of the above but cod, salmon and shrimp may also join their Queenies. White sauce may be viewed as an essential but from there on, lemon, wine, garlic etc are all fair game. The world of cuisine is pretty cosmopolitan these days.
Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand have a thriving industry of raising and freezing scallops and they too eat their Queen-sized scallops whole.
Tasmanians pride themselves on their scallop pies. They may make them with pie crust bottoms and puff pastry tops and fill them much as we do chicken pot pies. Be warned however that Tasmanians may make their pies with no crust but crumbs. They might include celery, carrots, corn, peas and even wakame seaweed and flavor their pies with curry.
New Zealanders, no surprise, do all of the above enthusiastically with festivals featuring their scollies as well as borrowing ideas from nearby cultures. For example, the classic triumvirate of sautéed garlic, ginger, and onion from China and Japan combines well with coconut cream, lightly spiced with garam masala and thickened if need be with a slurry of cornstarch. Top with steamed, gutted, and braised scallops and serve over rice.
Streaky bacon features in many of these British-descended scallop recipes. A clever idea is cook bacon; drain it on paper towel, and then blitz it with bread crumbs. Use this as a topping mixture for both pies and hors d’oeuvres.
NEW ENGLAND and CANADA
Stuffies are a Rhode Island specialty made from minced quahogs, a.k.a. surf or hen clams. You can make an elegant scallop version by using the mantles and everything else of farmed scallops that is not adductor. These bits have the most clam-like flavor. Mince the mantles and bodies fine with kitchen scissors and add buttered bread crumbs or Panko. Ritz crackers pounded to crumbs are the traditional DownEast flavor. Ritz even has a low-salt version which works very well now that so many people are reducing sodium in their diet. Put the scallop and crumb mixture on the scallop shell; top with an adductor brushed with butter and toast in the broiler until the crumbs are just golden brown. A hint of garlic, smoky paprika, Parmesan, or a drop of lemon juice would be nice.
Penobscot Bay is second in size only to the Chesapeake on the East Coast. This recipe, called here Ritzy Scallop Pie, is borrowed from an old Chesapeake Bay oyster pie recipe where it has been traditional to add potatoes or not, mix various seafoods, and top with crumbs or pastry. To those of a certain age the taste of Ritz cracker crumbs with seafood will be familiar even with modernized low salt crackers and Half & Half instead of rich cream.
Steam your scallops, shuck and gut the scallops. Braise lightly in melted butter to cover the bottom of a heavy pan. Cover and heat for a minute; then uncover, stir, and cover and cook for another minute. If you are using larger scallops, give them a little more time but be careful not to overcook them. This can be done a day ahead — or use leftovers if you should be lucky enough to have such a bounty. Cube potatoes such as white Maine potatoes, making them about the size of dice — you do not want them larger than the scallops. Boil until just tender, perhaps 10 minutes. Drain. Prepare the crumb topping by pounding Ritz crackers in a plastic bag or whirling them in a blender. Add whatever combination of bread crumbs, panko, wheat germ or even a bit of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix that you prefer.
Pour the scallops and their buttery cooking juices into a casserole dish. Add a bit of the crumb mixture to soak up the juice. Stir in the cooked potato cubes. At this point you add what you are using for the creamy liquid to hold everything all together. You could make a white sauce or just use crumbs and Half & Half or even better yet, use jarred Alfredo sauce for a splendid mouth feel and appropriately subtle flavor. Lightly brown the crumb mixture in butter in a frying pan so the casserole will not overcook those tender scallops in the dish. Spread the topping on the casserole and put it into a 325˚ oven for just long enough to heat through, perhaps 25 minutes if all your ingredients are already warm. Enjoy!
New Englanders love their clam fry, a mix of wheat flour, corn flour and a dash of salt, nothing more. Grocery stores buy it in 50 pound bags and repackage it in 5 pound bags! If you cannot find the mix or the finely milled corn flour, masa harina makes a decent substitute for the fine corn flour.
Shallow pan-fried Clam fry Scallops are well worth the trouble. To batter your precious shucked and gutted mid-sized scallops, whisk beaten egg in one bowl with a little milk, buttermilk or better yet, yogurt which gives the finished product a very nice body. Put a bowl of the powdery clam fry alongside and a plate next to that. Dip the scallops first in the egg and then in the clam fry. When you have accumulated a plate full of coated scallops, heat peanut oil or canola about ¼” deep in a heavy pan. A cast iron skillet works well. When the oil shimmers but does not smoke, quickly add your scallops one by one. If you start by adding your battered scallops to the right side of the pan, by the time you have reached the left side of the pan the first ones may be golden brown on the bottom and ready to turn to do the other side. You may be accustomed to frying the larger adductor scallops for two minutes on a side, but these delicate whole scallops take only half that time to brown beautifully and cook through perfectly. Drain on paper towel and plate with a little tartar sauce or slice of lemon for elegant hors d’oeuvres. So delicious you probably will not even touch the tartar sauce.
On the other hand maybe you are feeling nostalgic for the summer picnic table-salt air- sunshine deep fried clam shack version. Clam Shack Whole Scallops will be just the ticket.
Choose a heavy pan with deep sides and bring the oil to 350-375˚. Be careful: too hot and you will burn the scallops; too cool and they will come out greasy. After you have dipped the scallops in your egg and milk mixture and then in clam fry, add them to the hot oil a few at a time so as not to lower the temperature of the oil. Cook till golden, puffed, and crispy. The end product will be rather different from the shallow fried version. Drain on paper towel and serve with tartar sauce and that lemon slice and a side of coleslaw and a milk shake. Or, how about a nice cold Pilsner or IPA?
Just not into frying? Fifty years ago you would probably have chosen this option. Dip the scallops in well-beaten egg and roll in fine Ritz cracker crumbs. Put the scallops in a single layer in a buttered baking dish; drizzle on melted butter and dust on a little paprika. In a hot oven bake until crumbs are golden brown, perhaps 10 minutes at 450˚.
Chowder and Stew
The secret ingredient for New England style chowder is evaporated milk. Purists would brown bits of salt pork rather than bacon and sauté the onions last because they would burn if you do it in the other order. Cook your potatoes in slices or cubes as you prefer. Use the potato water for cooking your seafoods. To make scallop chowder use a small amount of the potato water to deglaze the onion/salt pork pan and steam larger scallops letting their broth incorporate itself into the braise. Actually the real secret ingredient is TIME. Chowders miraculously taste better when made a day ahead allowing the flavors to meld perfectly.
Confession: seafood chowder is a rather plebeian use of the dainty whole farmed scallops since we are used to sturdier fish and clams in our chowders. An even more suitably special preparation is Scallop Stew. The secret ingredient for New England style scallop stew is using some Half & Half for its creamy richness. Add a bit of sherry and prepared and briefly butter-braised medium or larger scallops and their broth. Start the meal with a dainty cup of this stew made with 2/3 Half & Half and 1/3 regular milk. Garnish with roe if you have it.
Scallop Parsnip Bisque
Slice in 1” rounds a pound of parsnips (about 6 parsnips) and cook till tender, 10 minutes or so. Mash the peeled parsnips well or better yet, pulse in a blender. Add to this an equal amount of Half & Half. The parsnips meld so perfectly that they are a secret ingredient. Add the prepared scallop mantles, bodies, and roes and some of that scallop liquid brine from that initial steam shucking you did to open the shells. Keep a bit of the red female roe for garnishing.
Blitz all in the blender. You will want to blend long enough that no fibers from the parsnip or tough mantle bits remain detectable. Because of the brine you will not need to add any salt. Some people like to add sherry around the perimeter of the surface of the finished dish so that the diner can dip into it with each spoonful. This sophisticated masterpiece is a great starter or a pretty upscale next day leftover.
NORWAY’s fiskesuppe is probably ancestor to the modern parsnip version. Peel and slice and cook parsnips (for about 10 minutes until just tender) along with sliced little red potatoes and carrots but use a good fish stock instead of water. In another pan — preferably a heavy Dutch oven with a lid — braise rounds of leeks in butter adding a bit of water and covering the heavy pan to cook the leeks meltingly soft. This sounds like butter braising scallops, does it not? Do the same for a generous batch of scallops, shucking and gutting them and saving their liquid. When the leeks seem nearly tender, add the leeks and lightly sautéed minced onions and celery.
Just as every New England cook has a preferred way of making chowder, Scandinavian cooks have a number of equally traditional variations to choose from at this point. Do you want to sauté a little garlic? Add a spoon of white vinegar and an equal amount of sugar? You could cook a nice piece of cod and one of salmon in the stock when the potatoes and veggies are nearly tender. Proportions of milk, Half & Half or cream to fish stock are all up to you but a 50/50 mix may suit you best. Garnish this lovely medley with a few sprigs of dill and serve with crispbread.
Cauliflower lightly oiled and roasted for 40 minutes at 400◦ is quite in fashion these days and Norwegians have also figured out that it makes a great base for blomkalsuppe. You can speed the cooking by poaching the cauliflower in chicken or fish stock for 10 minutes. Then put the cauliflower in a cast iron pan and spoon melted butter over it before finishing the cauliflower in the hot oven for another 10 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Puree the tender florets in stock and add braised Princess scallops and their liquid to finish it off.
Marsden Brewer and his son Bob recently won the trophy for their entry in the Men Who Cook contest with their variation of scallops on the half shell. They came back from a fact-finding trip to Japan with lots of ideas about how to raise scallops and how to use farm raised whole scallops. Here is one of their recipes, the one they used to win that trophy: In a deep frying pan or pot mix 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce and a few drops of garlic oil. Add 1 inch grated ginger and 1 cup of water. Heat above ingredients in pan to just boiling. Add fairly large scallops and steam for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat; gut the scallops and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the scallops. Serve with some of the sauce from the frying pan.
Dana Morse photo
You will find that udon or transparent or Korean sweet potato glass noodle recipes are also quite suitable for Asian-style whole farmed scallops. We recognize Japan’s soba bowl as another rather high tide soup swimming with its soba noodles made of buckwheat. There is a secret ingredient for the characteristic taste: Kikkoman MEMMI bottled noodle soup base. Cook soba noodles (or udon noodles) according to package directions — three minutes or so — until just tender. Add whatever assortment you like of bamboo shoots, sugar peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms etc. to shrimp and scallops. Garnish with pickled ginger.
Seaweed is another aquaculture product which goes well with these Asian-inspired scallop dishes. Drop some crumbled wakame into the cooking broth for a delicious starter plate of scallops. It will probably be tender by the time the little scallops are ready to shuck. It is a bit of a chore to snip out the digestive glands and put the scallops back in their shells but it is well worth the trouble for the delight of picking up each scallop shell as an individual server. Very Zen.
Taking a lesson from the Asian cuisines that encourage diners to mindfully attend to eating, you might want to do as they do and present some of your larger scallops sliced almost all the way through. This will encourage your guests to relish each delicious slice, one bite at a time.
In Japan they use a different scallop species from what we have in Penobscot Bay. Their species for a popular street food is appropriately called Pectin maximus. It’s huge compared to ours. Sometime when you have a spare half hour you might want to watch this You Tube video on Okinawa street food scallops. Warning: you will probably find the mantles in our species of large scallops pretty darn tough.
After watching that you may be inspired to try out this PenBay version of Scallops in Noodle Nests. Serve them with Japanese-style spinach and you have a wonderful meal.
Plan on perhaps three of the larger size live whole farmed scallops per person. When you take them out of the refrigerator they will all likely be gaping open. One at a time, gently hold the scallop and insert a dinner knife or other knife of your choice quickly into the ear/hinge area. You will be impressed at how strong a scallop pinching itself closed can be.
Carefully work your knife to scrape the adductor muscles free of the top and bottom shells. Now take the scallop body in hand. Cut the ribbons of mantle. Now comes the slimy part. (You may want to get yourself one of the wonderful Kamenoko (small turtle) Tawashi (scrubber) palm fiber scrubbing brushes that you see in some of the Japanese videos. They are readily available on line and really are superior.) Salt on your fingers also helps you hold the mantle strips and rub off the slime.
Remove any slimy membranes and questionable-looking grey entrails, keeping the red or white roe and the adductor. In the street food video they poach the black digestive gland with some of the adjoining entrails. Although the black digestive gland has a pleasant flavor it has a rather unappetizing appearance which is a good thing as it is NOT recommended for human consumption. Mince the mantle bits.
Warning: if your scallops are very large, the mantles will simply be too tough to use.
Replace the cleaned whole scallops and mantle bits in the curved shells. Top each with 5 grams of butter. The easy way to figure that is to slice a stick of butter and quarter those slices. You will see that trying to use a quarter teaspoon to measure the softened butter is not practical.
Put the scallops in a preheated 250˚ oven for 2 minutes. Then pull out the pan and top each scallop with one of the small butter lumps.
Depending on how quickly you managed this — and how much heat the oven lost while you were doing it — cook the scallops for another two or three minutes, or until the adductors lose their translucent look and appear white. But be careful not to overcook them! Adductors cooked this way have an amazing, silky, tender sweetness that rival even the freshest wild scallop raw adductor you ever ate. That is what makes this somewhat fussy preparation worth all the trouble!
Plate the scallops with your choice of pre- cooked Asian noodles.
Reading the tray as a clock face, the scallop layer on which the shells rest is noon, Thai rice noodles; then Korean sweet potato noodles at 4 o’clock. Then down at 6 o’clock the very clear bean thread “glass” noodles; at 11, udon; and the dark ones in the center are soba. Choose any one; they all work well with scallop dishes.
Grilling on the half shell is popular both in Southeast Asia and here in the United States. Patrick Shepard is a Deer Isle native from a long-time fishing family and Fisheries and Seafood Associate at Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries. When asked for his favorite scallop dish, he replied “I put them on the charcoal grill and smoked them until they opened up, a couple of minutes. I ate them like that, with butter and garlic to dip them in. I shucked the rest and sauced them with a sweet Thai chili sauce. Yum!” He was referring to Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili Dipping Sauce. You could make your own Nahm Jeem Gratiem by combining sugar, water, vinegar, garlic and salt or you can just cheat and stir together a little warmed orange marmalade with sriracha sauce.
One might also grill scallops in the ancient Wabanaki way practiced on the shores of Penobscot Bay. On a bed of coals lay the scallops curved side down to catch the juices. Cover them lightly with dampened spruce branches and cook just until they open. Carefully remove the scallops and set aside to cool a little before slurping this smoky treat.
Ancient or modern, it doesn't take long to realize that whole scallops and lobsters go together in some mysteriously wonderful way.
According to Wikipedia, that source of all knowledge these days,
(See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami ) “People taste umami through taste receptors that typically respond to glutamates." MSG by the way is monosodium glutamate. The list of foods that have a strong umami flavor reads like our list of traditional whole scallop recipes: shellfish, fish, tomatoes, mushrooms, yeast extract, cheeses, and soy sauce. Kombu is the substance in which a Tokyo professor, Kikunae Ikeda used in 1908 to identify that glutamate in the kelp gives a special taste for which he coined the word umami.
Synergy, enhancement… what is the best word to describe the reaction if you are not a chemist? Prominent food journalist of days gone by, Waverley Root described "...one of those catalytic foods, like the truffle, whose own contribution to taste seems meager but which has the gift of intensifying other flavors.” Catalyst is not quite the reaction so we settle for Enhancers.
The ultimate Maine (sea) Foodie dish could not be more fresh and local than Paella made with beans from the garden, farmed scallops, mussels, and lobsters all just harvested from the bay.
Paella is a wonderful traditional dish from Spain, metamorphosed into a seafood specialty on the coasts. To do it right ideally requires a special shallow flat pan and a soft round rice called bomba. (You could substitute the more available Arborio rice.)
The final touch is saffron, famous as the world’s most expensive spice. Its golden color and distinctive but subtle earthy, slightly floral, flavors come from the stamens handpicked from crocus flower. (Turmeric is the most often suggested downscale substitution.)
A few strands soaked for 15 minutes in the stock you wish to use will do for the whole recipe. You begin by making a sofrito (soft slow stir-fry). Finely dice onion and some tomato and lightly cook till soft in olive oil. Sweet paprika is the traditional addition but you may choose to use smoked paprika. Similarly, garlic is quite usual and sweet red peppers, white wine, and a pinch of bay or rosemary are common additions. Salt to taste.
When your sofrito is a nice jammy consistency, add your pre-heated stock. Stir in the rice (you may have sautéed that first too) and give it a few swirls. After that initial mixing, you do not stir so that a crisp rice crust forms on the bottom of the pan, the especially-coveted soccarat. Simmer slowly.
What about the seafood? You precook the lobster and shell it. (If you are lucky enough to have soft-shell, those too delicate to ship shedders, be sure to save any of the white gummy undifferentiated protein for the stock.) You will probably want to use just the claws for this dish and save the tails for another meal — the tender sweet whole scallops are actually the star of this paella. Steam the farmed scallops just until they open and then remove the scallops so you can remove the black digestive gland. It looks nice to put some of the meats back in the scallop shells for decoration. The same goes for slightly steamed mussels. This may seem like a lot of fuss but this is a spectacular dish and worth every minute of preparation.
When the rice is nearly done, remove the pan from the heat and top it with the pre-cooked seafoods. You may wish to add pre-cooked beans, artichoke hearts, and smoked red pepper bits in decorative patterns. Slip the whole pan into a pre-heated oven for just long enough to warm the seafood.
Serve garnished with lemon wedges if you wish. A crusty bread and a rosé wine complete this Maine-made paella feast.
Lobster and Scallop Risotto
Here is a triumph of a recipe which highlights what a great idea it is to combine lobster fishing and scallop raising. Same boat, same crew, same bay but slightly different schedule for each fishery. For the cook, this recipe can be done in a variety of ways depending on what you have in your freezer or how many helpers or how much time you have. Feel free to rearrange these instructions to suit.
Lightly brown 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice in olive oil in a heavy pan such as a Dutch oven on the stove top or in a 350˚ oven while it is preheating.
Boil fresh lobsters in several inches of water for 8-10 minutes. Remove the lobster and set aside to cool. Thaw scallops that you previously steamed, shucked, and gutted, and frozen in their juices. Or shuck and gut fresh live scallops if you are lucky enough to have them. Both the lobster and the scallops can be prepared ahead for this recipe.
To make broth for cooking the rice, lightly brown your choice of leeks, minced Vidalia onion or small Walla Walla onions- any mild onion will do. Add a clove of finely minced garlic. Remove from heat while they are still golden and set aside. Now add the thorax shell carapaces and small legs from the lobsters and any juice that drains as you are shelling the lobsters. Save the tails and knuckles for another meal. (Lobster rolls or lobster salad, anyone?) You will be reducing this stock for full flavor. Carefully remove the claw meats and set aside while you add those shell bits and any undifferentiated protein to the cooking broth. Add any juices and some white wine and your choice of vegetable broth, chicken broth, or seafood stock as necessary to make 2- 2/12 cups of broth in which to cook the rice.
You can do this on stove top or in the 350˚ oven for 20 minutes or so till the broth is absorbed and the rice is soft. Meanwhile, slightly brown a few tablespoons of butter. Don’t let it scorch. The claw meats and scallops can now be slightly heated in this delicious butter with its heightened flavor due to the slight browning.
You may choose to serve right in the Dutch oven or remove the rice to a serving dish. In either case, top the rice with the warmed scallops, lobster and onions in a decorative manner. This delicate dish is delicious at room temperature.
Serve and smile. This just cannot be beat.
Scallop n Lobster Mac n Cheese
In recent years Lobster Macaroni and Cheese has gotten positively trendy. When we asked a friend about her secret for the particularly good Mac n Cheese she brought to a potluck, she looked a bit embarrassed. “Campbell Cheddar Cheese soup.” That recipe calls for a can of soup, 2/3 cup of milk and 1 ½ cups of pasta topped with 2 Tablespoons of crumbs in 2 Tablespoons of melted butter. Bake at 400˚ for 20 minutes.
You will see recipes for plain milk, evaporated milk or Half &Half. Basically you are going to make a cream sauce with 2 Tablespoons of flour in 2 Tablespoons of butter per cup of milk. Plan on adding close to a cup of grated cheese — cheddar, Gouda, etc — your choice. That is a good ratio for 1½ cups of pasta, about a third of a 1 pound package, macaroni or other pasta. Scale up as you wish.
Now comes the interesting part. Stir into the cooked pasta and cheesy cream sauce bits of lobster cooked 8 minutes or less, and picked out. Steam shucked and gutted whole farmed scallops — any size — will give you that umami/glutamate enhancement. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and then decorate the top with lobster claw and whole scallops which have been warmed in little melted butter to announce to world how special this casserole is.
But suppose you need a Gluten-free version?
Not all that different from all the mac ‘n cheese recipes you have ever seen, but here we get specific.
Gluten-Free Mac 'n Cheese
Whole farmed scallops, 2 dozen mid-sized, steam shucked and gutted and claws and tails from 4 lobsters, cooked. 1 12oz box of gluten-free macaroni or other gluten-free pasta, 2 eggs whisked, 2 12oz cans of evaporated milk, 1stick of butter, melted; 2 cups shredded mild/sharp cheddar cheese mix (8 oz bag), and 1 + cup shredded Parmesan cheese (or 3 Italian cheese mix—Asiago/ Parmesan/ Romano). Save some to sprinkle on top of the casserole for a nice topping. You also want 2 cups of Velveeta cheese—that great stabilizer— shredded or chopped small.
Preheat oven to 400° F.
In a large bowl combine whisked eggs, evaporated milk, and mix together. Cook the pasta. You will want it al dente, perhaps 7 minutes. Drain and return to the pot. Pour the melted butter over the pasta and stir until all the pasta is coated with the butter. Stir in the milk and egg mixture. Gradually add the cheese mixture and stir until the cheeses are melted.
Butter a 9 x 13 casserole baking dish. Pour the macaroni and cheese, scallops, and chopped lobster bits into the baking dish. Sprinkle some Parmesan or Italian mix or extra cheddar cheese to the top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 8 generous servings (freezes well).
If that does not look fancy enough for you, cook your pasta, fill scallop shells, pour on the seafood-laden cheese sauce and top with already browned-in-butter crumbs. A large farmed scallop adductor is the crowning touch. Drizzle some melted butter on those to keep the sheen and heat in the broiler just to serving temperature.
Ooh la la!
It all begins with better stock. Begin by saving the liquid from shucking and gutting whole medium-sized scallops. Boil one or two lobsters in an inch or two of water. Save that cooking water. Remove the meats from the shells.
Carefully remove the tail meats and then the claws and put them aside with your cup of whole shucked and gutted scallops. (You can use the tails for making delicious lobster and scallop cakes — see that recipe later.) Now remove the stomach and discard from the mouth end inside the lobster carapace(s). Crush the shell of that thorax as well as the empty tail shell. Tear off the small legs and cut them in half and add all the shell pieces to the stock.
Remove the skin and bones from a bit of halibut steak and add them to the stock pot, reserving the halibut flesh.
Dice a couple of stalks of celery and some carrots and cut a tomato into small pieces without the seeds. Peel one or two white potatoes and cut them into 1 inch chunks. Add all these vegetables to the stock pot.
Add the cooking water and any lobster or scallop liquids from the steam shucking and gutting preparation. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or so. Strain the mixture. Now add to that liquid your halibut flesh and any mussels and simmer for 5 more minutes until the potatoes are tender and the mussels open.
Add the lobster claw meats and the prepared scallops to the relatively clear liquid and add any good looking pieces of the celery and carrots and tomato dice. Sprinkle on a bit of smoked paprika or saffron if you are trying to be very authentic (but you gave that up when you went for halibut rather than Helicolenus dactylopterus, or as the French would say, rascasse ). Since you did not sauté the veggies at the beginning, you might add a spoonful of olive oil to give a nice sheen and add that touch of fat that makes everything taste so deliciously rich. Heat just to serving temperature.
C'est si bon!
See this amusing and no doubt authoritative article from The New Yorker magazine to read about rascasse and the search for authenticity: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/10/27/the-soul-of-bouillabaisse-town .
Kelp, the enhancer which taught us about umami, makes great noodle-like strips for a stir fry and wraps for the leftovers. Sheets of kelp rolled and cut into strips make a perfect al dente noodle. Sweet peppers, red and yellow, are commonly part of steamed fish dishes. Since shucking scallops is essentially steaming them, we decided it was very appropriate to combine them with all the above for an umami test in a simple Scallop Stir Fry.
We wanted know whether a protein such as chicken also be enhanced by scallops and kelp in the way lobster is. We began with the classic sauté of onions, garlic and fresh ginger slices. Soy and sherry and cornstarch finished the sauce. We used the umami-rich water from soaking the kelp and the liquid from shucking the scallops to enhance the taste of both the stir fry and cooking our rice.
The results are in. Chicken tenders take on a subtle taste that pairs well with the scallops. The fresh garden greens look pretty but the seaweed wins for taste and texture. The winners are...us! The diners win. The dish is fabulous, tasty, and easy. Now if only we had some lobster to add to the mix....
Did you say Dolma? The Turkish word dolma means stuffed or filled. The same word usually applies to grape leaves or cabbage leaves which are stuffed and rolled. Dolmades is the plural of dolma, especially appropriate as these wraps are somewhat large. It was a short leap to think of softened sheets of kelp for making scallop dolmades. You thought of nori and hand rolling a cone of temaki sushi, did you not? By either name, with any seaweed (or play nice and call them sea vegetables!), these little wraps make nice hand-held snacks with a whole scallop peeking out one end.
Your kelp, possibly called kombu, Laminaria digitata, or Sugar kelp, Laminaria saccharina, may need only to be soaked in water if it was dried when young and tender. You will want to save that soaking water or the water from any parboiling needed to tenderize the kelp. Use it for cooking your rice as it is renowned for its umami properties. (And now it dawns that our chowders and bisques would no doubt be enhanced by similar rehydrated seaweed additions.
Another clever way to have a ready supply of dried umami-rich seaweeds is to break up the dried sheets and whirl them in a blender until you have “umami dust” which you can store in an air-tight jar. Whenever you need it, just sprinkle it on like glitter! Any of our seafood combination creations which follow will no doubt benefit from a dash of sea vegetables.
Use your imagination for flavoring your rice filling. The classic trio of onions sautéed with garlic and ginger can be used as the basis for a sauce for the filling. Add dark sesame oil, soy sauce, and even a bit of cornstarch to thicken if you wish. Warm your steam shucked and gutted whole scallops in the sauce. Chop the mantle pieces and any large scallops to small bits, reserving some whole scallops for decorating the dolma end. Lay spoonfuls of this mixture on your kelp sheets and roll them up. You may want to secure the rolls with toothpicks if you are going to make a whole pan full.
Some Buddhist sects consider eating scallops acceptable. Meatless vegetarian dolmades are usually served cold or at room temperature. Serve them plain or with a squeeze of lemon juice and some Greek yogurt. These are nice a little warmer than room temperature. You might consider making quite a few and serving them like cabbage rolls, with a lemon sauce such as this mock Hollandaise:
Not Quite Hollandaise
2 egg yolks, whisked
Add 2 Tablespoons of corn starch stirred into 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Stir in 1 cup unflavored (preferably Greek) yogurt.)
Put your bowl over hot water — a double boiler or a bowl that is nestled in a strainer over a pot of gently boiling water. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. The cornstarch keeps the yogurt from “breaking” and the mixture will gradually thicken to a velvety smooth sauce. If you put the sauce on the back of the stove while you roll the dolmades, the sauce will thicken even further. You will want to add a ¼ teaspoon of salt to enrich the flavor. Some people like to add a touch of mustard or dill at this point. It’s up to you, but remember that these seafood flavors are subtle and easily overwhelmed.
Sometimes something simple and obvious is surprisingly wonderful.
Crumble a sheet of dried sugar kelp to tiny bits. Put it to rejuvenate in a shallow layer of water. This could be on a microwaveable serving plate or on a scallop shell. Set a butter dish or small scallop shell on the seaweed plate; fill with a tablespoon of butter and microwave for 30 seconds. In the time it takes to melt the butter, the seaweed will take on a nice texture and color. Now add your shucked and gutted scallops. (The nuking could have toughened them!) Umami treat!
Scallop Lobster Cakes
Have lobster tails; will pair with whole scallops….After you have prepared some scrumptious dishes that combine whole farmed scallops with the delicate claws and knuckle meat for lobsters, what do you do with the lobster tails? (Of course you can equally well start here with these remarkable sea cakes and put the claws in the freezer for your next culinary adventure. )
You will need:
2 small lobster tails cooked 5 minutes, shelled and deveined
1 cup scallops, shucked, gutted, and liquid saved
2 egg whites (the lighter, dryer version)
2 Tbs-1-2 cup heavy cream, depending on amount of crumbs you use (or Maine-style: 1 whole egg + 2 Tbs Mayonnaise, no cream)
c. ½ cup panko crumbs
In a food processor, chop the lobster to still-recognizable bits. Add the prepared whole scallops and chop briefly. Careful! You do not want to make a puree. Beat the egg whites frothy and add to scallops and lobster mix. The proportions of crumbs and cream depend on personal preference. You want the cakes to hold their shape. Some crumbs soak up the scallop juice well and add a nice consistency to the cakes. Too much is sloppy. Sprinkle a layer of crushed Saltines on a plate, shape and place 8 cakes on the crumbs, top with more crumbs and chill for an hour or overnight.
Preheat your broiler. Melt a fairly generous layer of butter in a frying pan, a heavy cast iron skillet if you have one. Toast the cakes in a single layer for about 4 minutes. You want that bottom layer to be golden brown. Now put the pan full of cakes under the broiler on a middle shelf. You want to cook the tops (without turning) till they are also golden brown. Remember, your meats are already cooked and would toughen if overcooked but you do need to cook the whichever egg mixture you used to solidify.
Serve with a dab of tartar sauce if you are lunching on these. The Not Quite Hollandaise above gives you a Nearly Benedict if you are making breakfast. A little marmalade on an English muffin and who could ask for anything more?
Persian Eggs - another umami test?
Long ago the people of the Middle East discovered that eggs and yogurt were a great combination. Slap them on a piece of flatbread, sprinkle on some smoky paprika and you have a great dish. Eggs AND yogurt...who would have thought? Once we are familiar with the ENHANSER EFFECT of lobster PLUS whole scallops it is only a small step to put both great combinations together.
Start with some Greek yogurt and let it come up to room temperature. Melt a generous amount of butter and gently fry an egg. Spread the yogurt on your flat bread, English muffin, or other bread of choice. Now turn up the heat on the butter and let it turn golden brown, not dark brown. Add your steam shucked and gutted whole scallops and tidbits of lobster meat just to warm them. Browned butter certainly is a flavor enhancer on its own, isn't it?
A little orange marmalade, a cup of coffee or tea, and you have one of the best breakfast combinations you have ever met.
Scallop-stuffed Mushroom Caps
This delicious treat stars a portabella mushroom cap filled with an assortment of seafood. The gills are removed from the mushroom and the mushroom cap is fried in a little butter just until the cap starts to soften. Warm cream cheese is stirred with flakes of smoked trout and bits of shucked and gutted whole farmed scallops. You may like the slightly different taste that results from adding in some undiluted cream of celery soup and even small bits of diced celery and its leaves. Fill the mushroom and then add a layer of whole scallops arranged on that. A slice of smoked Provolone cheese tops all with a scallop garnish on that. A drop of browned butter on the scallop would not be amiss. Bake at 325˚ until the mushroom is tender and the cheese melted. The smoked trout complements both the texture and the taste of the scallops wonderfully. Is it the mushroom or the fish that enhances the flavor? Both.
By the time our dear friend Sonny gave us his recipe for the stuffed mushrooms it had rather changed. Laconic Yankee? Maine Island independence? Or just Whisper-down-the-lane? Some of each one suspects. Here's what he served us: button mushroom caps slightly sautéed, stems removed and chopped. The caps were filled with stem bits and shredded Mozzarella cheese with a bit of seafood on top. Whole farmed scallops would be an outstanding choice. Bake just until the mushrooms are tender and wrinkled. Mushroom + scallops = umami indeed.
Simple Scallop Dip
One last umami test:
Is it really true that cheese and scallops have the Enhancer Effect?
Here is a fine emergency party dip if you have 1/3 to ½ cup of prepared petite or medium-sized whole farmed scallops in your freezer. Thaw them and reserve half as garnish. Blitz the other half so the mantles are rather fine but not enough to make a paste. Chop very fine a tablespoon or slightly more of a sweet onion and fry in butter until slightly transparent and just golden. Add the onions and that butter to 1 cup of whipped cream cheese and 1 Tablespoon of mayonnaise. Mix well and add a shake of garlic salt and of dried dill.
In that warm buttered frying pan add a little more butter and melt the butter. Stir in the whole scallops reserved for garnish stirring them around to coat them well. Top the cheese mixture with the buttered whole scallops, scraping so that the melted butter coats the cheese mixture as well. Put in a 350˚ oven for 30 minutes. Yes indeed. Not only browning butter is a flavor enhancer but the combination of scallops and cream cheese is splendid.
While you are at it, it is a good idea to make another make another batch of this marvelous mixture. It is well known that chowder tastes better the second day after it has had time to mellow. So too with this dip.
Reheated and spread on a round of butter-fried Polenta with Scallops, this is a star brunch item. Choose scallops for your Christmas morning breakfast and you are making a gift to both the sea and the coastal economy because farming scallops is such a wise thing for lobster fishermen to do off-season.
...or you could make a quick, easy and delicious omelet with two or three eggs, and 1 tablespoon of milk or Half & Half. Mix with a fork. Add a little butter to a frying pan and when hot but not browned, pour in the eggs. When they are set, add scallops and a spoonful of Italian cheeses, a blend of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano. Umami
partners again! Fold in half and garnish with a scallop. A piece of toast with marmalade or your favorite jam would be nice too!
By now you have a pretty good idea of the principles behind using whole farmed scallops, what makes them a special treat. The following directions are pretty free-wheeling, but you will not have any trouble producing an outstanding dish.
Supposedly this dish originated at Antoine’s in New Orleans, a rich oysters on the half shell dish named for the richest man of the time, John D. Rockefeller. If you don’t have shells and you decide to serve this as a main, serving it on a nest of wild rice.
Steam shuck and gut your scallops. If they have been frozen, let them come up to room temperature. You will want four or five medium-sized scallops per person. If you use larger scallops you will want to serve fewer and you will want to finely chop the mantles and body parts and coarsely chop a few adductors to go under the spinach sauce. Save a few adductors for the centers of the presentation. Now brown some butter. Dip the scallops in the butter to coat and arrange the scallops on shells or plates. Next, thaw a frozen kelp cube or crumble some dried kelp so that you have about a tablespoon of bits and put them to soak in water just to cover. The kelp will give your recipe a wonderful umami lift.
Finely dice several stalks of celery and sweet white onion. Quantities? Three heaping cups of raw spinach will give you ½ cup cooked. A box of frozen spinach will be just a bit more. A big bag of spinach, 10 oz, will serve 4-6 people. You are using the celery and onion just to mellow the oxalic acid taste of the spinach. Remember, scallops are more subtle tasting than oysters. Briefly cook the spinach in a pot of boiling water and drain well. Sauté the onion and celery bits in olive oil until they are softened. Add a spoonful of capers and mix with the celery, onion and spinach and the frozen or hydrated kelp and its soaking water. Chop this mixture fine – a hand blender is good for this. You just want to render the stems tender but you are not trying to make a paste. Taste and add lemon juice and more capers if desired. Spoon on the green spinach mixture.
Sprinkle on a layer of Parmesan or three Italian cheese mixture. Crush (low salt) Ritz crackers and mix with bread crumbs and/or Panko, roughly a third of brown each. Lightly toast this crumb mixture in the browned butter and top the scallop/spinach/cheese with this layer.
Observe that you have used the umami/glutamate enhancing principle here. All the ingredients are cooked and need only to be warmed and served. It is your choice whether you use a microwave oven or your broiler to heat the dish to serving temperature but in either case remember not to cook those dainty scallops so they get tough. Garnish with lemon and serve.
Vietnamese Noodle Salad Bowl
Southeast Asian cooks have long recognized that fish sauce is an umami champion. It seems that dipping sauce is practically a universal ingredient. It certainly lifts noodle salad bowls into the realm of exquisite.
Bún bò xào in Vietnamese cooking is a popular salad, usually served as a light meal (Bún = rice noodles, bò =marinated beef, xào = stir-fried). It consists of a bowl of cooked fine rice noodles and fresh and pickled vegetables topped by stir-fried beef, scallions, and peanuts and herbs of choice, usually basil, cilantro and mint. A somewhat similar mix of ingredients can be found in popular Bánh mì (Bánh = bread) sandwiches. This salad adapts well with whole farmed sea scallops.
First things first (assuming you have steam-shucked and gutted your medium-sized scallops). Grate some carrots and put them to quick pickle in this mixture: 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ cup water. Heat the mixture just enough to dissolve everything and pour it over the carrots and let them pickle while you do everything else.
If you choose to add your favorite version of tea eggs or tofu soaked in the following dressing, that preparation would come next. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package directions, either a 20 minute soak in very hot water or a quick boil for 3 or 4 minutes and then rinsed in cold water; not cooked long enough to get mushy.
Now for the all-important dressing. Think of this a nuoc cham/nuoc mam, the generic terms for fish sauce/dipping sauce. Exact proportions of sweet/salty/acid depend on your personal preference. Mix 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon of honey, 2 Tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of lime juice, 2 Tablespoons of fish sauce, ½ teaspoon of dark sesame oil, ½ teaspoon of oyster sauce and a pinch of salt. Many recipes call for garlic and hot peppers but in this case they would overpower the scallops. Taste and adjust proportions if necessary.
Arrange your prepared whole scallops (on scallop shells if you have them) on top of a bed of attractive lettuce. Arrange the drained pickled carrot shreds and the cooled thin rice noodles around the scallops. Add any other protein you decided to use, be it tea eggs, marinated tofu, or even the traditional stir-fried beef or pork. Obviously none of these are necessary. Spoon the dressing over all. Garnish with peanuts, scallions chopped small, and pickled ginger. Toss on fresh herbs if you wish.
This is a remarkably tasty dish, amazingly appealing to Western tastes and a good one for starting to use sea vegetables, as flakes, sprinkles, or soak water.
Speaking of seaweeds… by now your appetite as well as your curiosity should be right up there for seaweeds, those excellent partners for whole scallop dishes. The waters off the coast of Maine have proved excellent locations for an increasing number of sea farmers. The principal growers have different philosophies and business models and that results in offering slightly different products.
Kelp and scallops are a natural pair. Look how tasty native species of kelps volunteer themselves on the scallop lantern lines. In the cold months of the year the kelps remediate the excess carbon and nitrogen. At the same time the scallops clean the bay by filtering the water and packaging and expelling excess nitrogen. Farming kelps and scallops both require no fertilizers, no antibiotics. They help take the pressure off our wild populations that are faced with incursions of invasive species, warming Gulf of Maine waters, and habitat destruction. Humans can feel good about supporting kelp farming as well as scallop farming. The two make a fantastic pair, one more way lobster fishermen can diversify.
Sea vegetables are good for you as well as good for the environment. Kelps are a natural source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C,D and E. They supply fiber and minerals such as iodine, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and calcium.
All true, but probably the first thing you notice is that kelps are umami champions. Almost any tomato sauce will benefit from the flavor lift of a shake or two of dried kelp flakes. Incorporate kelp in your smoothies, soups, scallop and other seafood dishes and you are in for a real treat.
You can learn more about sea vegetables in general at https://www.seriouseats.com/2018/04/seaweed-guide-how-to-use-kelp-kombu-nori-wakame-sea-vegetables.html
You may be most familiar with the bright packets of various sea vegetables available from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, the hand-harvesting company started in 1971 in Franklin by Shep Erhart. He is also author with chef Leslie Cerier of their vegetarian cookbook, available at www.seaveg.com.
You might want to start with a shaker of Maine Table Kelp and the rich but not hot Maine Red Bay with paprika from Springtide Seaweed, the country’s largest organic seaweed farm, https://www.springtideseaweed.com/ under the leadership of dedicated scientist Sarah Redmond at Gouldsboro. Ultimately you may incorporate these invaluable nutritious and flavor-enhancing seaweeds in your daily diet as a matter of course with a jar of Maine Counter Kelp.
A recipe collection for dried sheets of seaweed is at https://atlanticholdfast.com/ . Micah Woodcock in his wet suit sustainably, carefully, harvests from the ledges by an island off Isle au Haut. Helpful information and recipes are found on the back of each package.
Maine Seaweed hand-harvests various species of seaweeds on a somewhat larger scale and offers both the dried products and a cook book called Seaweed Soul. See https://theseaweedman.com/recipes/ , the web site of Larch Hansen of Gouldsboro, whose philosophy will be familiar as his mentor some four-plus decades ago was Scott Nearing, author of The Good Life.
Atlantic Sea Farms uses a different approach. A number of fishermen with leases grow various sea vegetable species. These are then processed — not dried — and sold as tasty innovative pickled products or frozen ready-cut kelp strips or cubes. Order and find recipes at
Beet-pickled Eggs and Friends is a meal that tastes as good as it looks. Hard boil eggs, chill, and peel. Now comes the fun part—submerge the peeled eggs completely in Atlantic Sea Farms Sea-Beet Kraut and refrigerate overnight. (Two eggs will just fit in a half a jar of Sea-beet Kraut.)
The next day, sauté finely diced onion in butter until it just begins to color. Cook frozen green beans according to package directions. If you had Tientsin preserved vegetable you could dry fry the beans with that for an extraordinary treat but a brief butter sauté – just enough to color a bit— with the onions will do. When the butter has browned, add shucked and gutted scallops. Mix a sauce of 1 Tablespoon soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos, 1 tablespoon of Mirin or sherry plus 1 tablespoon of white sugar and pour the mixture over the green beans, scallops, and onion. Plate this on a bed of Atlantic Sea Farms Fermented Seaweed Salad.
Remove the purple-pink eggs from the kraut and carefully cut them in half. Don’t they look fine! Plate them on a bed of the kraut.
Plate with a serving of rice. The multicolored Royal blend of Texmati white, brown, wild and Thai red rice looks very handsome with this. You may want to pour a bit of soy and dark sesame oil over all.
And if you are feeling really devilish you could mash the yolks of those purple pickled eggs with a fork, add a spoon of mayonnaise and instead of the usual vinegar, add some of the pickle juice from Atlantic Sea Farms' Sea-beet Kraut and sprinkle on some of Springtide's Maine Red Bay paprika/kelp spice.
Kushari is Egypt’s famous street food, a combination of macaroni, rice, and lentils, topped by a savory tomato sauce and fried onions. Instead of the usual chickpeas as garnish, we offer whole farmed scallops. A stretch? Not really as Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile has for some time been leading the way in aquaculture. Many Muslims choose to break the fast during Ramadan with this national dish. Scallops, our garnish, are even considered essentially vegetarian according to many beliefs. Many people cook the pasta and lentils in the same pot. but it might be wise to use separate pots so you can get both to the right degree of doneness. Count on about 10-15 minutes. Leftover rice would be fine or cook an equal amount of that too.
Fry some onions slowly in a vegetable oil, olive oil if you wish. Set them aside with the shucked and gutted whole farmed scallops. Now for the spiced tomato topping. A can of tomatoes—fire-roasted or with chili and garlic added — will serve as your base. Heat gently on the stove. Adding a bit of seaweed, crumbled dry flakes or even better, a kelp cube from Atlantic Sea Farms, remarkably enhances the taste. Then you want the spice mixture called Baharat, but you probably have to improvise. You are aiming for a mixture of black pepper, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and paprika. If you have Baharat, add a pinch of that. Clearly you would copy that with a dusting of this and this and that. Springtide’s Red Bay would give you both the paprika and the sea weed.
Warm the dish in a moderate oven for half an hour or a few minutes in the microwave before garnishing it with the butter-browned scallops. At this point, not only do we say that the scallops demand that we go easy on the spices, but relax; after all, it’s street food.
Although kushari is practically the national dish of Egypt and our Maine version is not entirely authentic ours is certainly delicious. If you have ever eaten the real thing on the streets of Cairo, this will bring back fond memories. Oh, yes, and those lovely pink pickled turnips we had alongside the kushari? We have the beets and turnips so theoretically we could make those too, but instead we just serve a side dish of Atlantic Sea Farms’ Sea-Beet Kraut.
Scallop Roe Caviar
If you have some large or jumbo farmed scallops with roe in them you can make your own version of scallop caviar. Scallops usually spawn in late August and then you can expect the female red ones to be filled with eggs like any caviar. But what if the scallops are not spawning yet? The female roe sacs don't look egg-filled, just richly colored. The surrounding membrane in fish caviar is called a skein. If you break the scallop equivalent you will have that red color seeping all over. On the other hand, if your roe is nicely cooked—in browned butter or on the grill—the whole red female roe can also be used to color the male white so-called roes. When it is not quite caviar season you can mix the white and the red and give them a brief chopping with a hand blender to give the more traditional appearance of caviar.
This makes a great spread for toast or cracker hors d'oeuvres. You will probably want to add a little salt for that briny taste. Maybe a little lemon? A crisp bit of bacon? Or treat them as you would chanterelles on toast. In a pan with the fond from butter-browning the roes, reduce, that is cook down a little cream and splash of white wine. A whisper of garlic salt and onion salt perhaps and then briefly add the roe crumbles to reheat them and pour all on toasted sourdough or other crusty bread slices.
Some caviar canapés call for bedding the caviar on a dollop of sour cream. You might try your caviar crumbles on a bit a Greek yogurt instead, topped with a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Luscious! Clearly you could also blend the roes smooth with cream cheese, sherry etc for a delicious pâté. Experiment! It's all up to you.
Some people say that farmed whole scallops taste quite a bit like Maine’s iconic lobster. Recipes for lobster abound but surely the most popular way to serve lobster is with a dipping dish of melted butter. Small surprise then that you might find that dipping grilled whole scallops in melted butter is also a favorite.
Try this for a really special late summer grilled feast. Give whole large or jumbo scallops which are brimming with roe a quick steam in a heavy kettle just until the shells gape wide open. Remove and cool and then gut them. It is easy to pull off the tough mantles and everything that is not roe or adductor. Coat the scallops with melted butter and they are ready for a brief time on the grill. Since they are nearly completely cooked in the shucking process, you are just giving them a bit of browning and that smoky taste.
To prepare lobster in a similar manner, boil hard shell lobsters for perhaps 6 minutes and remove and immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. Remove the meat from the claws and tails. Cut the meat in pieces of the desired size and dip them in melted butter. Toast the lobster on the grill for just a bit longer than the scallops. You might enjoy serving the lobster in the empty carapaces and opened tail shells alongside the scallops on their shells. Such drama; such deliciousness!
THE NEXT STEP
How fortunate we are to have the fresh and sustainable scallops grown out in the scenic waters of the coast of Maine. Vintners like to use the term terroir for special qualities they detect in the geological and biological factors which make up the taste of wines from a given vineyard. So too diners are coming to appreciate Penobscot Bay not only for its outstanding wildlife and kayaking and schooner trips, but for its aquaculture. Its meroir — or merroir as some like to spell it — the taste of our sea.
Flavor Tips from the Chef
An outstanding product like these farmed sea scallops invites you to experiment with flavor tips such as these from Chef Barton Seaver.
Barton Seaver fell in love with whole scallops while working as a chef in Spain. Delighted to find them locally, he enthusiastically celebrates both the taste and the sustainability of whole farmed sea scallops.
Here are some tasty tips he originally meant to bring both finesse and personality to more mildly flavored seafood. They are gleaned from bartonseaver.com/recipes, Barton’s books For Cod and Country, The Joy of Seafood, Two if by Sea and his online Seafood Literacy.com course hosted by Rouxbe Cooking School.
Garlic lovers will appreciate the blanching procedure for mellowing garlic so it does not overwhelm the delicate scallops with its bossy bite. Peel cloves and put them in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook one minute. Strain out the garlic and repeat the process two more times adding a pinch of salt the last time. The cloves of garlic are now ready for use.
For Barton’s lemon butter version of what the French call buerre meunière, sauté some thinly sliced onion in butter which you have heated just till beginning to brown. When the onion begins to soften, add a little water (or scallop brine) in which you have mixed a few drops of lemon juice. You may want to add some salt if you had not added any scallop brine. This makes a great finish for fiddleheads or asparagus.
Barton also likes to bloom raisins and currants in orange juice as a sauce, delicious on butter-braised scallops and rice. If you think Julia Childs’ version of Coquilles St.- Jacques is too retro, you could do Barton’s version of Ginger Raisin Crumb which he originally made for boosting the subtle flavor of halibut. For our scallops we have reduced the ginger and mace a bit. Process 1/4 cup of raisins to a paste with 2 tablespoons of soft butter. Add 3 tablespoons of panko and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger. Add 1 teaspoon of ground mace. Top your jumbo scallop adductors with the mixture and give them a quick trip in the broiler.
Another of Barton’s suggestions for customizing traditional recipes is to use sweet potatoes instead of white ones in chowder. Parboil sweet potato cubes till just slightly softened and then brown them lightly in with bacon before you add them to your chowder.
Seaver cooks his polenta in milk as we do, but he serves a red pepper salsa on the side. Speaking of salsa, he also makes a sauce which would dress up scallop tacos in an interesting way. He mashes avocado (or prepared guacamole) and stirs in an equal amount of plain yogurt and a bit of lime juice. This tones down the avocado just enough to not overwhelm our scallops. Spread this on toast and top with butter-braised scallops…outstanding!
For dipping lobster he makes a spiced butter by mixing a little mace, vanilla, and lemon in his melted butter. That's delicious for dipping scallops as is his lemon butter that is flavored with thin slices of onion cooked in the butter and lemon juice just until the onions soften. The butter will brown slightly and the flavor is subtle and very pleasing.
And here are some other spice and herb combinations he suggests that you might enjoy trying with scallops:
Tarragon- it has a unique ability to bring elegance and finesse to seafood dishes.
Mint- an essential herb in Barton’s kitchen which he describes as bringing a “freshening sea” flavor to scallops.
Chilies- fresh or dried the zing of peppers both provide backdrop for the sweetness of scallops and punctuate with a counterpoint of heat.
Lime- we all celebrate lemon with seafood but give lime a try. It has a more pronounced sweetness as well as a more acerbic acidity that helps to accentuate the floral flavors often found in seafood.
Lime/Chili/Mint- yup, put ‘em all together and things get interesting.
You may purchase your while farmed live scallops in a net bag. This allows the scallops to breathe. If you transfer them to a bowl to put in your refrigerator for a day or two, consider using a shallow one so you do not smother any of them. The bowl also catches any of the delicious liquor of brine and body fluids that drip out when the scallops relax and open up their shells.
Live scallops have a shelf life of perhaps four days. You do not know how many of those days have already elapsed in transporting them to market so you want to process your scallops fairly promptly. Scallops are not quite like other shellfish. They do not stay tightly closed; opening is not a sure sign of death. How do you tell what an open shell means? Bring closed chilled scallops out of the refrigerator and they may gape a bit as they warm up. Touch them and perhaps, just perhaps, they will slowly, slowly close back up (when they feel like it?)
Take a look at the peripheral band of tissue, with the eye spots, the mantle. This is what you want your scallops to look like. The mantle of a dead scallop will have significantly shrunk back in towards the center. Just be prudent about using the scallops promptly and you will have no trouble.
To wash the pretty scallop shells or not? Yes, they might come with a bit of marine growth piggy-backing on them. You can wipe that off — mostly for aesthetic reasons— but do not think you will do the scallops a favor by soaking them in water. Rinse them if you wish but do not drown them.
Freezing farmed whole scallops directly in the liquid resulting from shucking them is probably the most satisfactory method of long term storage. Freezing scallops does not appreciatively detract from their delectability. Fortunately freezing the scallops when you first get them is not only protection, but the eventual short braising or poaching actually improves the flavor and mouth feel as the brine and body fluids combine. Briefly poaching the scallops in a little plain or flavored liquid causes them to open and results in a delicious liquid you will probably want to save and freeze in small container accompanying the meats.
Individual Quick Freezing at Home
There is a whole science behind freezing the product, the processes used to get the optimum result. Cryofreezing at very low temperatures, blast freezing, glazing etc. are used in 'professional' or larger scale food processing but home cooks are probably familiar with a form of IQF, individual quick freezing. Shuck and gut the raw or lightly cooked scallops. Place the prepared scallops on a baking sheet on a parchment or silpat sheet, being careful to spread the individual scallops so they are not touching one another. Remove them as soon as they are firm but before they are frozen to the flat surface on which they rest. Once frozen they can then be transferred to baggies or other containers for storage.
What if you froze them right in their shells? Unfortunately the shells insulate the scallops so they freeze more slowly which means the resulting ice crystals will be larger. When you thaw the scallops — in the refrigerator, please — the drip loss will be greater. But you know by now to use a bowl to catch all the liquid, right? You will sacrifice some flavor and mouth feel but not only is this shortcut a quick fix when you are pressed, you will then have the shells on which to serve the precious scallops after you have snipped out the digestive gland and sliced free the adductor muscles. Be sure to spoon on each shell a little of the delicious broth in which the scallops have been cooked. Notice that one shell of each pair is flat and one is curved. Use the flat ones for decoration and the curved ones can be used as serving spoons from which the diners directly ingest the tasty contents.
Wild vs Farmed?
Divers and fishing boats rigged with dragging equipment annually head out to fish our waters. In Maine the season for wild scalloping usually runs from about December 1 to mid-April. If weather allows good fishing days, a region may have to be closed for the season when the allowable quota of the harvest of the wild scallop population is reached. To assure that the public is not exposed to biotoxin risks, the mature scallops —those with shells that measure four inches across or larger — are shucked at sea and only the meat, the adductor muscle, is brought ashore and sold. This is the reason that whole or roe-on scallops MUST be purchased through a certified dealer operating where environmental conditions are scrupulously monitored. Under no circumstances whatsoever should one assume that it's safe to eat any part of large wild caught scallops except the adductor muscle.
The Future of Aquaculture- the 2020 Vision
Scallops of various species exist in all the oceans of the world. Their populations around the globe have in the past collapsed due to various factors including overfishing. Regulations to save the scallop by wild harvesting only large scallops and marketing only the adductors have resulted in cooks forgetting how the whole scallops were traditionally once prepared. Now that world-wide scallop aquaculture has developed, we have another approach to make sure our scallop populations can be sustainably harvested. Wild scallop fishing properly regulated may be able to meet public demand for a while longer. Aquaculture of appropriate scale need not be in competition with other fisheries. Each has a different effect on the environment and results in a different product for our table. We are learning that there is strength in diversity.
Based on how aquaculture is developing in other countries, we can expect it to parallel how farming in general happens these days. There will be a question of scale: small, rather boutique operations of independent owner-operator fishermen, with potentially large, quite industrial-scale processing plants. New methods of mechanization in raising and processing will develop accordingly. Demands of the niche market will evolve. Here on the coast of Maine we are exceptionally fortunate to have fishermen with vast stores of local knowledge who are also flexible enough to explore new ways of doing things.
Farm fresh? Local? Natural? Low tech? Low risk? Not quite, but mariculture — sea farming, aquaculture which uses the natural ecosystem — in Maine offers a very good set of options for us to be exploring.
Because raising scallops and eating the whole scallop is new, it is important to know how this “farming” in the water column provides not only a tasty product but actually improves the environment with minimum impact on current use.
Here is the Brewer’s scallop farm:
The line of underwater lantern nets holds the scallops safe from predators. The scallops dine on plankton in the water column, filter the water and ‘package’ their wastes which drop down and feed the bay’s bottom feeders.
The view from the adjacent coastal real estate is unaffected and even the schooners can sail right over.
It’s win, win, win.
About the Authors
Marsden Brewer has for the past two decades focused on figuring out how to make farming scallops work for Maine. He is a third generation Maine fisherman and has been fishing all his life whether it’s what he calls low water urchining, scalloping, or off shore ground fishing, shrimping and lobstering. Knowing Penobscot Bay so well, Marsden sees that we are entering an era where the fishermen need to adapt to turn harvesting from today’s ocean into a sustainable success story.
President of the Maine Aquaculture Co-operative and former member of the Department of Marine Resources Advisory Council, Marsden served as selectman for the town of Stonington for 6 years and so has his wife Donna. She is currently a Stonington selectman while running Red Barn Farm, their retail shop featuring lobsters and their farm products.
Marnie Reed Crowell is a natural history writer with a Masters degree in Biology. More than fifty years ago she came to Deer Isle with her ecologist husband who was doing biogeography research on the islands off Stonington. One of the Island’s acknowledged best cooks took Marnie under her wing and taught her authentic Island ways to deal with sea foods. When her friend Marsden one day bemoaned that folks did not really know what to do with his aquaculture scallops, this project was born. Marsden saw to it that Marnie was well supplied with scallops.
Being married to an ecologist meant research and trips to conferences around the world for Marnie. Over the years she gathered recipes from Canada, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. “What country are we tonight?” her husband more than once inquired gazing at his plate of her experiment of the day.
Marnie serves as Communications Manager for the Maine Aquaculture Co-operative. Her books include Greener Pastures, In praise of country life, (Funk & Wagnalls) Great Blue, Odyssey of a Heron, (Times Books), Flycasting for Everyone (Stackpole). She wrote A Sky of Birds for Downeast Audubon, Beads and String, A Maine island pilgrimage for Island Heritage Trust, as well as works in numerous magazines such as DownEast, Redbook, Natural History, Audubon, and Reader’s Digest. Her poems are included in Take Heart-More poems from Maine (DownEast Books) and Poems From Here read on Maine Public Broadcasting Network.
Songs of Seeing, a collection of Marnie’s nature-oriented poems together with her paintings and photographs, is available at https://www.songsofseeing.com/ for people struggling with the brain challenges of Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, cancer’s chemo fog , Lyme fog etc.
Chef Barton Seaver is known for his graciously humble manner and inspiringly contagious enthusiasm for the culinary gifts of the sea. He is one of the world’s leading sustainable seafood experts and educators. Before leaving the restaurant industry to pursue his interests in sustainable food systems, he was an award-winning chef leading top seafood restaurants in Washington, DC. After traveling the world with the National Geographic Society, he translated his experiences into his leadership in the area of sustainable seafood innovations. As a member of the United States Culinary Ambassador Corp, Barton facilitates international conversations on sustainability and the role of food in resource management and public health. As the Director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health, Barton led initiatives to inform consumers and institutions about how our choices for diet and menus can promote healthier people, resilient ecosystems, more secure food supplies, and thriving communities. He also served as a Senior Advisor in Sustainable Seafood Innovations at the University of New England and as a Sustainability Fellow at the New England Aquarium.
An internationally recognized speaker, Barton has delivered lectures, seminars, and demos to a multitude of audiences. He has written seven seafood-centric books, including For Cod and Country, Two If By Sea, American Seafood and The Joy of Seafood. Seaver has contributed to Coastal Living, The Coastal Table, Cooking Light, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fine Cooking, Fortune, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Saveur, the Washington Post, among many others. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, NPR, 20/20 and the TED stage. Seaver hosted In Search of Food on the Ovation Network and Eat: The History of Food on National Geographic TV.
He is also the founder of Coastal Culinary Academy, a multi-platform initiative that seeks to increase seafood consumption through seafood-specific culinary education for all levels of cooks.
Barton resides in coastal Maine, a stone's throw away from a working waterfront, with his wife, son and their flock of heritage chickens.
Marnie Reed Crowell, Marsden Brewer, Dana Morse.
Special thanks to Dana Morse, Extension Associate, Maine SeaGrant and Hugh Cowperthwaite, Senior Program Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Coastal Enterprises, Inc for their essential support right from the very beginning.
Jane Karker, founder and president of Maine Authors Publishing, Maine’s innovative independent press, earned unbounded gratitude for personally shepherding this rather non-traditional work to fruition as both a downloadable and paper book. .
This collection courtesy of Coastal Enterprise, Inc. with support from the Maine Technology Institute and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
© Marsden Brewer