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Recipes and Stories

1 March 2013: Scallops and Capellini

Jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared in clarified butter and nestled up to capellini simply sauced with butter, lemon juice, and scallions

Everyone should have such a dilemma: there was a large cache of lovely jumbo dry-packed sea scallops leftover from a class and no one else could use them. It was up to us to use them, and we were going to be out until late. I was not, however, about to let a luxury go to waste.

Besides, the lovely thing about scallops like that is that they take no time at all to cook. I walked into the kitchen at 7:45 and a sumptuous yet simple supper was ready by 8:30.

It was, perhaps, a little too luxurious for Lent, but then such disciplines were not designed for us to waste food just because it happens to be a luxury.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon-Scallion Capellini
For 2 Persons

8-12 very large dry-pack sea scallops (“U-10”*)
About 2 tablespoons clarified butter
Whole black pepper in a mill
5 ounces capellini (“angel hair”) pasta
About 2 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 lemon, halved, ½ left whole and the other cut into wedges
2 small, thin scallions, washed, trimmed, and thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional

1. Let the scallops sit for a few minutes at room temperature and thoroughly pat them dry with paper towels. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot over high heat. Add enough clarified butter to a well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick pan to barely film the bottom. Put the pan over medium heat and let it get nice and hot.

2. Put the scallops in the pan and cook until their bottoms are well-seared and brown, about 2 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with several liberal grindings of pepper, and cook until the second side is nicely browned and the scallops are done to your taste, about 2-3 minutes longer. The fashion now is to cook them to medium-rare, but I like them firm throughout but still juicy.

3. While the scallops cook, stir a handful of salt into the boiling water and then stir in the capellini. Cook until it is al dente, starting to check it after about 2 minutes. Drain reserving a few spoonfuls of the cooking water, and return it to the hot pot. Add the butter in bits and toss until it is creamy and coating the pasta nicely. Add a spoonful or so of water if the “sauce” is not creamy enough. Squeeze in lemon juice to taste and immediately add the scallions, tossing well. The heat of the pasta will cook them slightly. Season with a few liberal grindings of pepper and add a dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if liked.

4. When the scallops are done, take them up to 2 warm serving plates, divide the pasta and lemon wedges among the plates, and serve immediately.

* The “U” measure on scallops is the number of units that make up a pound. U-10 are the jumbo size that most restaurants use. Always buy “dry-packed” scallops that have not been sprayed with preservatives. Otherwise, they won’t sear properly and will shed their precious juices as if they’re bleeding to death in the pan.

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