This is a recipe I like to break out for dinner parties. It never fails to impress, not just because it’s delicious, but also because it has a very sophisticated, restaurant-style presentation. People see it and think I must be a whiz in the kitchen. The truth is, this recipe is fairly quick to throw together and, as long as I keep a close eye on the scallops during their short cooking time in the oven, it always feels fairly easy. Essentially you just combine some ingredients, throw them in the oven, and make sure they don’t over cook.
I like to get good sized sea scallops for this dish. It’s not designed for the smaller scallops that are often marketed as “bay” scallops. You could certainly alter this recipe for little bay scallops, but you would need to adjust quantities and cooking times to make them work.
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I use fresh scallops for this dish. If you’ve never bought fresh scallops before, try talking to your fishmonger, or the person behind the seafood counter at your supermarket for tips and advice. I don’t recommend you use diver scallops for this dish. They’re more expensive and they’re treated a little more carefully at harvest, which means their rich flavor and texture are better suited to a quick pan-fry and less over-powering sauce. Sea scallops are better suited to this sort of “smothered” recipe.
Generally I use my scallops the day I buy them, although any reputable store or fishmonger will sell you scallops that will keep until at least the next day. I like to rinse them and then pat them dry with a paper towel, or lint-free dish towel. This allows the butter mixture coat them a bit better, in my experience.
One of the great things about this recipe is the fabulous dripping sauce that you get in the pan. The cooking time is short, however, so it’s important that you dice your shallots and mince your garlic very finely so they can soften quickly in the oven. A large dice means the shallots may not cook to your satisfaction.
This dish can be served with a variety of side dishes. Steamed or sauteed vegetables are a good choice, as is a simple salad with a lemony vinaigrette. It pairs well with rice pilaf or mashed potatoes. And another option is to serve it over pasta, like a linguine, allowing the pan sauce to serve as a pasta sauce — I suggest garnishing the pasta with a bit of grated Italian hard cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino.