Properly cooked, scallops are wonderful. Our friend Dardi sautés sea scallops to perfection. The trick is to cook the scallops until they are just done. Thirty seconds too long, and the scallops begin to toughen and soon resemble large rubber erasers. Dardi knows when the pan is ready for the scallops and exactly when to turn the scallops so they are golden brown on both sides but not overcooked.
My one try with sea scallops resulted in edible but chewy scallops that cost a fortune. I have had much more luck with the smaller bay scallops cooked in a savory sauce of butter, olive oil, garlic, spices and a dry white wine such as a sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.
Here is how to make scallop scampi that your family and friends will ask for again. Just trust the clock and cook the scallops for the time indicated, and all will be well. The recipe below serves four.
1 lb. bay scallops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T olive oil
2 shallots (about 3 T finely chopped)
1 1/2 T butter
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Dash of red pepper flakes (1/16 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Parsley sprigs (for garnishing)
Pasta of your choice
Grated Parmesan cheese
Start heating the water for the pasta that you prefer. I like penne rigate for this recipe, but linguine or fettuccine work well too. While the water is heating, peel and chop the garlic and shallots very fine. You can also chop the parsley at this time. When the water begins to boil, cook the pasta according to the directions for the variety you have chosen and begin cooking the scampi.
Put the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the scallops. Once the scallops are sizzling in the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and sauté them for two minutes, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice. Stir the scallops in the oil and juice, remove them from the skillet and set them aside.
In the same skillet over medium heat, sauté the garlic, shallots, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper for two minutes. Add the wine and simmer for five minutes. Return the scallops to the skillet and simmer for another two minutes.
With a slotted spoon remove the scallops to a warm serving bowl, leaving the liquid in the skillet. Add the butter, raise the heat and reduce the liquid to about a third cup. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the scallops. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve over pasta with a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese. A green salad, some good bread and a glass of the wine you used to cook the scallops is all you need to complete a gourmet dinner.
Quick, simple and delicious!
NOTES: Be careful with the amount of salt you add to the sauce, as the Parmesan cheese is rather salty. Diners can add salt and pepper at the table.