I love raw scallops, but, I know, not everyone is a fan. My trick is to sear them so they look cooked but are still almost raw in the centre. If you’re serving picky guests who will eat only scallops that are fully cooked (which makes them tough), think of another dish.
Seared scallops with pancetta, mint and Korean zucchini “spaghetti”
I’m a fan of Korean zucchini, which has thinner, smoother skin, and flesh that’s more delicate than the Italian variety. It has the shape of Italian zucchini, but the skin is pale green, and it’s usually sold in
shrink-wrapped plastic. When cut into long, thin strands, it looks like pale green and pale yellow spaghetti, but, with it’s lighter texture, it is perfect for summer dishes.
Prepare the “spaghetti” and other ingredients first, because the scallops take just a couple of minutes to cook. I always buy scallops fresh – in the shell – on the day I’m going to cook them. The seafood vendor can clean them for you, but I have them leave the roe/coral intact (although it can be removed, if you prefer).
For the spaghetti:
3 Korean zucchini
30 grams unsalted butter
170 grams pancetta, sliced about 5mm thick
Cooking oil, as needed
A small handful of mint leaves, plus a few sprigs and small leaves for garnishing
Fine sea salt, rough-flaked sea salt (such as Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper
For the scallops:
16 fresh scallops, cleaned, about 5cm in diameter
40 grams butter, divided
Cut the zucchini into long, thin strands. I use a hand-held julienne peeler, but you can also use a mandoline. Use only the exterior and fleshy part of the zucchini, not the seedy core. (The core can be used in vegetable soups.) From three Korean zucchini, you should have about 500 grams of julienned flesh. Put the julienned zucchini into a bowl and sprinkle with about 20 grams of salt, then mix well and leave for about 15 minutes. Put the zucchini into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cool running water, then taste: it shouldn’t be too salty. Drain the zucchini, then take handfuls and squeeze to remove the excess water. Put the zucchini in a bowl.
Cut the mint leaves into chiffonade. Stack several leaves and roll them tightly into a small cigar. Use a sharp knife to cut the cigar into fine shreds, then unroll them. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Put the pancetta pieces in a lightly oiled skillet and set it over a medium flame. Cook, stirring often, until lightly browned. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set it aside. Put the butter in the pan (no need to wash it) and place over a medium-low flame. When the butter melts, add the julienned zucchini. Cook briefly until the zucchini is hot and tender. Turn off the flame.
Blot the scallops with paper towels. Heat two clean skillets over a high flame, then coat them liberally with oil. When the oil is very hot, season the scallops lightly on both sides with fine salt, then put them immediately into the skillets, dividing them evenly between the pans. Sear the scallops over a high flame for about a minute, or until they’re medium brown, then turn them over to sear the other side. Adjust the heat if they’re browning too quickly. After turning them over, let them cook for about 30 seconds, then add 20 grams of butter into each skillet. Swirl the pan so the scallops get evenly covered with butter. When the scallops are cooked to your liking (about two minutes in total for rare) take them from the pan and blot them on paper towels.
Place the skillet with the zucchini spaghetti over a high flame and add the pancetta and some black pepper. When the spaghetti is hot, turn off the flame and mix in the mint-leaves chiffonade. Divide the spaghetti between four plates and add the scallops. Sprinkle with black pepper and a little rough-flaked sea salt, then garnish with mint leaves or sprigs. Serve immediately.
Seared scallops with fennel and cream
This is a rich dish that should be accompanied by boiled potatoes and a green vegetable (spinach is good). Start the meal with something light and end it with a refreshing, fruit-based dessert.
16 fresh scallops, about 5cm in diameter, cleaned
Cooking oil, as needed
70 grams butter, divided
2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
20ml Pernod or another licorice-flavoured liqueur
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim off the fennel fronds and reserve them for the garnish. Halve the fennel bulbs and remove the core at the base. Slice the fennel about 5mm thick.
Heat 30 grams of butter in a skillet placed over a medium flame. When the butter is half melted, add the fennel. Season with salt then add about 60ml of water to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetable starts to soften. Add the cream and simmer over a high flame until the cream reduces enough to lightly coat the fennel, stirring often. Stir in the Pernod then turn off the flame.
Cook the scallops as in the first recipe, using two skillets, and adding 20 grams of butter to each pan after you’ve flipped the scallops over.
Spoon the fennel onto four plates and top with the seared scallops. Sprinkle with black pepper, garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, then serve immediately.
Photography: Jonathan Wong
Stylist: Nellie Ming Lee
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