This is a recipe from Robin’s repertoire. I take no credit! This recipe is simple, looks stunning and it’s delicious. A great way to impress dinner guests. A lot of people stay away from cooking scallops at home but it’s honestly so easy!
Scallops and cauliflower are often paired together as the cauliflower doesn’t overpower the subtle taste of the scallops. The key to this simple recipe is using good quality scallops. Scallops with cauliflower purée is perfect appetizer or light meal.
Buying Good Quality Scallops
Hand-Dived on the Shell
Here in France, we tend to buy our scallops at the fish monger. This could be either a market stall or a store. Either way, the scallops generally come in their shell. Many French people also eat the “coral”, or roe, of the scallops. This can only be eaten if they’re very fresh. Ask your fishmonger to separate the scallops from the shell for you. I like to keep the shells. They’re so beautiful!
Dry vs Soaked Scallops
I was in the States recently and at a good quality fishmonger we still didn’t see scallops on the shell, instead, we were offered dry scallops. “Dry” is the seafood industry term for natural scallops which have not been treated with phosphates. Natural scallops have a slightly tan, or “vanilla”-colour. Just ask your fishmonger for them.
According to Fishex, an online seafood provider, dry scallops are superior for the following reasons:
- For searing purposes, dry scallops caramelize beautifully!
- Dry scallops taste sweet & natural, where “wet” scallops can sometimes have a washed-out, or even slightly “soapy” or bitter flavor.
- You are not paying for added water with dry scallops.
- The idea of selling “soaked” scallops feels dishonest to us, here at FishEx – so we don’t sell them. Ever.
Unfortunately, “Soaked” scallops are very common, in fact, Most scallops on the market are soaked. Soaked (also known as wet or treated) scallops have been soaked in a bath of phosphates (or more precisely- sodium tripolyphosphate), for the purpose of adding water-weight as well as keeping them fresh for a longer period. When scallops are exposed to a phosphate bath, they absorb it and swell, gaining water-weight. When you buy soaked scallops, you are paying for this added water which is crazy considering you’re already paying a premium for this ingredient. The absorbed water evaporates when the scallops are cooked leaving them smaller, tougher and less-flavorful than their dry counterparts. It is generally easy to discern treated scallops as they will usually appear very white in color.
Scallops with Cauliflower Purée Recipe
Serves 4, with 3 scallops per person.
1 Head of Cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1 Liter of Milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
12 Dry Scallops (or the best quality you can find!)
4 Strips of Streaky Bacon Rashers
3 Sprigs of Parsley chipped finely for serving
Salt and Pepper
Butter for frying
Heat the oven to 375°F and place the bacon rashers on a tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for about 15 minutes until very crispy. If your bacon is quite fatty, you may need to drain the fat halfway through. Reserve on kitchen paper towel.
Place the cauliflower into a saucepan with enough milk to just cover it. Bring the milk to a boil and simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. Leave to cool.
Purée the mixture until smooth. Sieve for extra smoothness. Place back into the saucepan to reheat. Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste.
Pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper. This will allow them to become crispy. Place a frying pan on medium-high heat and add a generous tablespoon of butter. Allow the butter to melt and the pan to get hot. Fry the scallops for 1-2 minutes on each side depending on the size. The scallops above are quite large so they were 2 minutes each side. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your frying pan. Season the scallops while in the pan.
Squeeze the bacon rashers in the paper towel into bits. Chop the parsley.
Dish out the reheated cauliflower purée to just cover the bottom of your small plate. Next, place the scallops on the plate with the garnish. This helps with 2 people. Drizzle with good quality olive oil and serve with crisp white wine.
- Make sure you have the garnish (bacon and parsley) ready to dish up. Scallops don’t stay hot for long so they need to be eaten immediately.
- It’s ok if the scallops are a bit translucent in the middle after frying. This is how a good restaurant would serve them. If you overcook them, they will become rubbery. Buy an extra scallop to cut into to check for cooking if you’re nervous.
- Swap the bacon for pan-fried crispy chorizo for a little more oomph.