Pan seared scallops with their golden crust, tender, succulent texture, and mildly sweet flavor make for a bit of a decadent indulgence as either an appetizer or a main meal. My seared scallops recipe features a cool and mildly spicy roasted red pepper sauce with a bright, smoky flavor, plus a flourish of fresh micro greens and pine nuts for flair!
Pan Seared Scallops, Mildly Sweet and Succulent
Scallops are the deep ocean's delicate and delicious little offering.
With their pale and tender flesh that has both a sweet and briny essence to it, scallops are one of the tastiest yet simplest foods to prepare when an elegant little offering is craved, benefiting from a quick sear in a screaming hot skillet swirled with clarified butter until a deeply golden crust is formed.
And while seared scallops need little else than a small sprinkle of sea salt and pepper in order to be thoroughly enjoyed, their natural flavor and texture pleasurable enough, they are marvelous with a brightly flavored roasted red pepper sauce with a slightly smoky and tangy kick.
Add a little sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and a flourish of micro greens over top for a pretty presentation, and a dainty little plate of blissful indulgence has been created to be slowly enjoyed, bite after succulent bite, as something perhaps just a little bit extra special.
How to Sear Scallops
When preparing pan seared scallops, keep in mind that there are different size varieties to choose from. For this recipe here, I opt for the larger scallops, often referred to as “sea” scallops, because I'm looking for a meatier bite that can hold up to a sauce.
To create that deeply golden-brown outer crust, you'll want to make sure that your scallops are completely dry, so use a paper towel to pat them dry before seasoning with some sea salt (leave the black pepper for after searing, so that it doesn't burn).
You'll also want to get your pan smoking hot. Otherwise, you risk your scallops steaming rather than searing, which can yield slightly tougher, more rubbery scallops if cooked too long.
I like to use clarified butter with a bit of high-heat avocado oil when searing in a hot pan, as both of these have a high smoke point and do not easily burn or become too brown too quickly. Plus, the flavor of these oils is rich and nutty, perfect for the scallops.
Once your pan is hot and ready, all you need to do is season and sear the scallops for a couple of minutes per side, then plate them up and finish with some of the sauce and garnishes.
Here's a peek at my seared scallops recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- I begin by preparing my roasted red pepper sauce: I add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. I then set the sauce aside to dress the scallops once seared.
- Next, I prepare my scallops by removing any pieces of tougher muscle sometimes found on the side of scallops; then, I pat each scallop dry, and simply season with sea salt.
- Once I've got my skillet nice and hot, I add in some clarified butter and avocado oil, followed by my scallops, larger-side down, leaving them undisturbed for about 2 ½ minutes, until a nice golden crust forms.
- Then, I flip my scallops over, and allow them to sear for about another minute and a half, just until medium-rare and slightly tender when pressed.
- To finish, I give a twist of freshly cracked pepper over the seared scallops, and serve over top of some of the roasted red pepper sauce, and sprinkle some pine nuts and fresh micro greens over top before serving.
Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: 12 (3 scallops per serving)
Nutrition Info: 265 calories (per 3 scallops, with about ⅓ cup of sauce)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes
Total time: 24 minutes
Seared Scallops Ingredients:
- 12 sea scallops, side muscle removed and patted completely dry
- Pinch of sea salt
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or other high-heat oil)
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (or regular unsalted butter)
- Pinch of black pepper
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, optional garnish
- ½ cup micro greens, optional garnish
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 (16 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry and roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
- ¼ teaspoon (slightly heaping) sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- To prepare the roasted red pepper sauce, place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few minutes until completely smooth; pour the sauce into a squeeze bottle or spoon into a serving dish, and keep room temp or in the fridge. (Any unused portion will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge, and is delicious over chicken, beef, shrimp, or veggies.)
- To sear the scallops, place a large cast-iron or other heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat, and add in the avocado oil and the clarified (or regular) butter; once melted and the skillet it very hot and pretty much smoking, season the scallops with some sea salt, and working in batches if necessary, place the scallops larger flat-side down into the skillet.
- Do not disturb the scallops for about 2 ½ minutes, allowing that first side to get a nice, deep brown char; then, flip the scallops over and allow them to sear, undisturbed, on that second side for about 1 ½ minutes, or until a golden crust forms on that side and the scallops are medium-rare and slightly firm yet tender when gently pressed.
- Remove the scallops from the skillet and place onto a large platter to hold. Repeat with another batch, if necessary.
- To serve, add a couple of generous spoonfuls of the roasted red pepper sauce to the bottom of a plate, and top with 3 scallops; sprinkle over a small amount of the toasted pine nuts as well as some pretty micro greens, and serve while hot. (Alternately, you can spoon or drizzle some of the sauce over top of the scallops, then top with pine nuts and micro greens.)
Tips & Tidbits for my Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
- Opt for meatier sea scallops: To enjoy the classic seared scallops with a bit more texture and a meatier bite, choose the slightly larger scallops called “sea” scallops.
- Dry your scallops very well: In order to avoid the scallops steaming, make sure to pat them dry very well with some paper towels before seasoning with salt and searing. Less moisture equals a better crust for seared scallops.
- Smoking-hot pan: I like to use my cast-iron skillet for searing my scallops, and allow it get very hot, to where it's pretty much smoking. That kind of heat creates a charred outer crust (which is scrumptious!) when the scallops are seared for just a couple of minutes per side, while keeping the inside tender, and a medium-rare doneness.
- Add the black pepper after you sear: It's best to stick with only salt when searing in such a hot pan, and then finish the scallops, once seared, with a twist of black pepper to prevent the pepper from burning.