Updated from the archives, because this recipe deserved it.
This dish is something I’ve planned for some time, but just couldn’t figure out how to execute until yesterday. I love scallops, but the lovely Mrs. Seat of her Pants had only ever experienced them at the local Chinese Buffet. I tried their version a few weeks ago and realized why she thought less than fondly of these wonderful little bivalves. The buffet version was rubbery, flavorless and coated in a completely generic and entirely greasy breading mixture. They were, in a word, nasty.
I immediately decided that I had to show her what a well prepared scallop tasted like. I ran out to the store the next day and purchased a bag of tiny frozen scallops (Fresh is not an option in this part of the world!). I knew I wanted to show her several different variations of these tiny oceanic gems. The focus would be to highlight the flavor of the scallops in three ways, sweet, savory and tart. But how? I also knew I didn’t want to start with full-sized bay scallops, in case she really wasn’t fond of the flavor after all.
Believe it or not, the inspiration for this appetizer-style dish came from a completely unrelated side dish. I was zoning out watching Food Network one day and Paula Deen was making asparagus bundles tied with green onions. Out of nowhere my mind started racing and a resounding “That’s It!” rolled through the house, waking up my napping son and terrifying my dog in the process. (Inspiration can be embarrassing!)
The next day found me in the kitchen whipping these little guys out. Preparation is a bit intensive and if you want to make these for a party, I suggest going with a slightly larger scallop, as wrapping these tiny ones was no mean feat, and requires not only a razor-sharp boning knife, but some pretty mean knife skills.
The flavor however, was more than worth the effort! As a matter of fact just thinking about it is making me hungry!
What did the Mrs. Think? Well, we’re having scallops for dinner next week, so I suppose I did pretty good!
Pan Seared Vegetable Wrapped Scallops in Oyster Sauce
- 9-15 small scallops, defrosted
- 2 scallions, greens only
- 1/4 of 1 red bell pepper
- 1/4 of 1 yellow bell pepper
- 3-4 tsp. Oyster flavored sauce (You can find this in your Asian food section)
- 1 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
- 3 good pinches coarse sea salt
Bring a small saucepan to a rapid boil over high heat.
While water is heating, place frozen scallops in a large bowl and fill with cold water. Allow scallops to sit for at least 5 minutes to defrost thoroughly. Pour into a strainer or colander and place over a bowl in refrigerator to drain. Refill bowl 1/2 full with ice cubes and fill with cold water.
When water in small pot is boiling, add peppers and allow to blanch for about 5 minutes to soften flesh and ease removal of skin. Add scallion greens and allow to boil for 1 minute.
Remove all vegetables with a slotted spoon or skimmer and place in ice water. This will shock the vegetables and keep their colors vibrant. Allow to sit in ice water for about 5 minutes before continuing.
Cut peppers into thin strips. Place strips skin side down on cutting surface. Take a boning knife and very carefully cut the flesh away from the skin to form nearly translucent ribbons of pepper. (In a perfect world the blanching and chilling will allow you to simply peel the skin away from the flesh of the peppers.) Reserve skin, discard flesh.
Cut the scallion greens into small strips lengthwise.
Heat a large nonstick skillet and oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle scallops with salt. Dump scallops in pan and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. (If excessive juices form in the pan simply turn the entire pan out into a strainer over the sink to remove liquid and return the scallops to the hot pan.) When scallops are just opaque, turn them out on a paper-towel covered plate and allow to cool to room temperature. (Approximately 10 minutes)
When scallops are cool to the touch, gently wrap 1/3 in red pepper skin strips and 1/3 in yellow pepper skin strips. There is no sealer or glue sued, the damp strips of pepper will adhere directly. A bit of trimming may be required.
For the remaining 1/3 of the scallops, tie a very loose knot using the scallion greens. Gently slide the scallions through the loop in the greens and pull tight.
Plate by placing 1 tsp. oyster sauce on a serving vessel. Sauce can be made decorative by using a toothpick to create a pattern of your choosing. Place 1 of each type of scallop on pool of sauce in a pleasing arrangement. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 3 hours on a cookie sheet.
Should be eaten with chopsticks.
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
Both my wife and I agree that the scallion tied version was the most flavorful of the three, but that the red bell pepper version was excellent as well. The yellow bell pepper wrapped scallop was just a bit tart for my tastes. I think the next time I make this, I’ll use a bit of pickled daikon radish or ultra-thinly sliced blanched carrot for that particular color. Aside from that, I just with there had been more!