It seems that when the weather turns to the worst and our taste buds crave the joys of summer (namely fresh seasonal fruits), the ocean picks up some slack. Like mussels, the plump prizes known as scallops are in season October through March and should definitely be dined on. The jewel of the ocean: soft, sweet, and meaty-- these little bivalves are a kind pick.
Because of their sweet nature, scallops are an ideal pairing with uncommonly used entrée flavorings: sautéed with pear and honey; on a bed of creamy braised leeks; mango salsa; or in this case, accompanied with horseradish mashed potatoes crowned by caramelized onions.
High in flavor, protein, fatty acids, vitamin B12, magnesium, potassium, and low in calories, scallops are the perfect “good for your heart” meal. They are surprisingly filling so do not shy away from the cost that quality scallops can run. In my local fish market I can find the treasured bay scallop for $14 per pound-- I have seen them for as much as $35 per pound.
From the French escalope, written records show that scallops have been harvested in the bays of North America since the late-1700’s (probably even before this time). The scallop shell is the typical “seashell” image many of us carry in our mind—not the conch, mussel, or oyster, it is the circular wave-like shell with a flat base where the two halves connect. A scallop’s age can be gauged by counting the consecutive ridges on the shell. They are hermaphrodites, changing sexes depending on the water’s temperature (talk about a gaggle of girls).
When purchasing scallops, look at them first. Colors should range from off-white, slightly beige, to a pinkish hue. Sizes and shapes should vary slightly. If you see scallops are uniform in size they may be imitation (possibly shark) or cut from larger, less tender scallops. Pure white in color may be a sign that the scallops have been sitting out, absorbing water and chemicals. Next, smell them. They should not have an overly fishy aroma, but a slightly sweet scent. Like all fish, scallops must be kept cold. Immediately after purchasing, put the scallops in the refrigerator. Scallops can be kept fresh for up to two days. However you choose to eventually prepare your scallops, cooking time should be limited to a few minutes. Never overcook your scallops or they will turn into rubber. And in my belief, stay away from fried scallops as it breaks down the delicate quality that makes them so succulent to indulge.
This meal was a simple one. I chose to broil these scallops with a little butter, lemon juice and garlic. The end result was a sweet decadent treat. I was in the mood for horseradish (what is better to accompany fish?) and decided to throw them into buttery mashed potatoes. Topped by caramelized onions, this was a sweet and tangy pairing very fitting to the meal.
BROILED SCALLOPS w/ HORSERADISH MASHED POTATOES & A CROWN OF CARAMELIZED ONIONS
Makes 2 servings. Prep + Cook Time= 15 minutes.
* 1 lb fresh bay scallops
* 3 Tbl butter, sliced into small chunks
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* juice of 1 lemon
* 1 tsp celery seed
1) Turn the broiler on. Wash the scallops and place on an oven-safe, non-reactive surface. Do not stack scallops. Add all ingredients evenly distributed over the scallops.
2) Broil 5 minutes, flip, broil 5 minutes (or until each side is slightly golden).
THE HORSERADISH POTATOES
Makes 2 servings. Prep time= 10 minutes. Cook time= 30 minutes
* 2 large red potatoes, peeled half-way and cut into quarters
* 4 Tbl butter
* ½ cup milk (or buttermilk)
* 2 Tbl fresh horseradish
* salt/ pepper to taste
* 1 large yellow onion, sliced
1) In a pot on the stovetop, place potatoes in cold water with a sprinkle of salt. Cover and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Boil potatoes until soft when poked with a fork.
2) While potatoes are boiling, warm 2 Tbl butter on a skillet. Add onions. Sauté on medium-low heat until onions are golden, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently so onions do not burn.
3) When soft (about 30 minutes), drain water and return to potatoes in the pot to the stove (now place the scallops in the broiler). Add the remaining ingredients and mash until desired consistency (smooth or chunky) is reached. Cover and keep in warm pot until scallops are ready.