During my vacation on Cape Cod, I sampled a scallop roll that was so beguiling it completely distracted me from my lobster roll obsession.
And now I want to share it with you.
Scallops are one of those low-maintenance seafood items that freeze and transport exceptionally well. So even though, I’m landlocked here at home in eastern Oregon, I can still buy good-quality sea scallops all year round.
Good thing, because I have a major food crush on this scallop roll!
Anyone can make these transporting seared scallop rolls anywhere at anytime! All you need to know is how to sear a sea scallop.
How to sear sea scallops
The most alluring aspect of this particular scallop roll recipe is that the sea scallops are seared instead of deep fried.
Does the thought of cooking scallops make you nervous?
Sure, they’re a bit expensive and a bit delicate, but it’s more about confidence than skill. The first thing you need to do is to come to grips with the fact that you are going to turn your burner onto HIGH.
This is the part that gets a lot of folks who worry that they’re going to burn something. This always surprises me because it’s actually pretty difficult to burn food. (I’ve burned chick peas I put on to boil more than once, only because I left them on the stove while I was working in my office and the water ran low.)
I promise that if you are standing nearby, you will not burn anything–least of all a pan of scallops.
- Pat them dry: if you want any protein to brown well (steak, chicken or scallops), it must be dry. I lay the scallops on a sheet pan lined with paper towels and pat them dry on both sides. Then, I season them with sea salt.
- Crank the burner to HIGH: Turn on the overhead fan, set a wide skillet over high heat and slick it with your favorite cooking oil.
- Give them space: At the moment the oil begins to send up whiffs of smoke, arrange the scallops in the pan one at a time two inches apart. I lay them into the pan from the 12 o’clock position and go clockwise so that I can remember which scallop I put into the pan first.
That’s pretty much it!
Except now you need patience. Breathe and stand by with a thin-bladed spatula (a fish turner like this is the very best tool). Make sure the pan is centered over the burner and watch. Have a landing spot ready but don’t flip them yet.
When you see a thin line of brown around the bottom edge of the scallops, flip the first one you put into the pan (the one in the 12 o’clock position) over and check it. If it isn’t gorgeously browned then put it back down on its first side and count to 30 slowly.
If it is evenly seared, start flipping the scallops over one by one in a clockwise direction. Because of their position in the pan, some of them may be less browned than ideal. Move any of these to the center of the pan where it is hottest and cook for another 30 count.
Then, cook the second side of all the scallops for about 1 minute and slip them onto a plate. (The second side will not brown before you should remove the scallops from the pan, but no one sees that, so it does not matter.)
Congratulations! You’ve earned this simple, delectable delicacy, which is a simple marriage of lettuce, roll, pesto and these picture-perfect scallops.
Seared Scallop Rolls with Pesto
This is a great recipe for practicing the perfect scallop sear. If you're not into the bun, just increase the amount of dressed salad greens and turn this roll into a seared scallop salad.
- 1 pound sea scallops(15 count per pound), fresh or frozen
- sea salt
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for dressing salad
- 2 cups mixed salad greens
- 1 lemon, cut into six segments
- black pepper
- 4 hot dog buns
- 2 tablespoons basil pesto
- If frozen, defrost the scallops completely overnight in the refrigerator or in cool running water. Pat dry and lay out on a baking sheet lined with layers of paper towels. Season both sides well with sea salt.
- Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat and the overhead fan on. When wisps of smoke appear, arrange the scallops in the pan 2 inches apart in a clockwise pattern.
- Cook without disturbing for 2-3 minutes. When the bottom edges of the scallops turn dark brown, test one of the scallops by flipping it over with a thin-bladed spatula. When evenly and deeply browned, flip over all the scallops and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate to rest.
- Toast the buns on a buttered griddle. Meanwhile, toss the salad greens with a light drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
- To assemble each scallop roll. put a bun on a plate and fill the bottom with salad greens. Top with 4 scallops seared side up and a tiny dollop of pesto. Serve with a lemon wedge.