Happy New Year From Our Family To Your Family!!
I know I promised I was going to write down 50 recipes as my 2015 New Year’s Resolution but it took me longer than I expected to combine cooking, writing, pictures and memories. But no worries Jim and I will continue this fun project into 2016!
For the New Year I would like to share the recipe for Scallops Belvedere. But before I delve right into the recipe I thought I would tell you all about scallops. To cook scallops perfectly one needs to really understand scallops. As I have often say about Italian cooking it not just about the recipe but the quality of the ingredients!
We often see the typical white round scallop behind glass at the fish market. But were you aware that scallops are mollusks that have two beautiful convexly ridged, or scalloped, shells. I am sure you have all come across the scallop shell at one time or other while taking a walk on the beach looking for the perfect shell! The edible portion of the scallop is the white muscle that opens and closes the two shells and is called the “nut.” The reproductive glands known as “coral” are also edible, but not widely consumed here in the US.
In the US we have three kinds of scallops available: Sea scallops, bay scallops and calico scallops. For the Scallops Belvedere recipe, we use sea scallops. Sea scallops are relatively large, often 1½-2 inches in diameter, and are perfect for searing. We don’t recommend bay scallops because they are much smaller and not as good for searing. The Calico scallops are also not recommended because their shells are so tightly closed they must be steamed open before any further preparation. The season for fresh sea scallops and bay scallops runs from October through March, while fresh calico scallops are available from December through May. Of course frozen scallops are available year-round.
You may also come across “diver scallops”. It doesn’t mean anything but the manner in which the scallops were harvested. Divers go down and choose mature scallops by hand, leaving behind immature scallops as well as leaving the ocean floor alone. Since the ocean floor is not disturbed by the divers, diver scallops are usually less gritty than those harvested by bottom trawls. They are also more expensive than the ones harvested by trawling. Trawling is done by scraping the ocean floor and pulling up scallops without regard to maturity or to the damage possibly being done to the ocean floor.
One of the most important facts to look for in scallops is whether they are wet or dry scallops. Dry scallops are the best! Whatever you do not buy the wet scallops! Read on as I explain the differences and you will understand my reasons.
Unfortunately, most scallops that you find from your fish monger or supermarket are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), a chemical that, while it is safe to consume, it ruins the ability to get a perfect sear on the scallop. These chemically treated scallops are called wet scallops. STP loosens the structure of scallops making them sponge-like, where they soak up almost 30% of their original weight in water. This is an economical perk for fishmongers who sell scallops based on weight, but not for consumers who end up paying for the added water! What’s worse, the treatment makes scallops nearly impossible to sear because all that excess moisture floods the pan as soon as the scallops start to cook. The scallops end up being small, rubbery and pale with a soapy after-taste. You just can’t get the beautiful caramelization with a wet scallop that we want in a perfectly cooked scallop. Please take notice that if they are wet scallops they are just labeled as scallops.
Dry scallops are untreated and don’t expel as much water as they cook. Although they are pricier and have a much shorter shelf life than wet scallops, dry scallops are superior in quality, flavor, and ease of cooking. Because they aren’t treated, they are certainly fresher when you find them at the fish counter, with a sweeter, brinier flavor.
Now that I have explained that dry scallops are the ones to buy for this recipe, let me explain how to make sure you do get the dry scallops. Either ask the fishmonger or check the label! Fish counters selling dry scallops will most likely be proud of and advertise the fact that they are indeed dry. If it just states scallops most likely they are wet scallops. Second, look at the container the scallops are held in. If there’s milky white liquid in the container they are probably treated with TSP. Finally, take a good look at the scallops themselves. Wet scallops have a ghostly, opaque, pale white or orange-white appearance. Dry scallops will be fleshier and more translucent!
As an added note when purchasing scallops, make sure to buy from a reputable fishmonger and be sure to smell the scallops before purchase. The scallops should smell clean and sweet and like the ocean. If they have a strong fishy smell, do not buy them.
I checked our first 1961 menu to see if we served scallops back in the day. I found two entrees, fried scallops and scallops sautéed with mushrooms. I found it interesting that they were both listed as Cape Cod Scallops. Now that you understand all about scallops please enjoy the following recipe that quickly became a favorite!
See our Scallops Belvedere recipe.