Coquilles saint-jacques au muscat

sea scallops2

Scallops sautéed in sweet wine

The beauty of this very quick recipe is that it works just as well with frozen scallops as with fresh ones. But beware — frozen scallops must be entirely defrosted before you begin, otherwise you will not produce the beautiful outer crispness that makes this dish so special. You may use scallops with their coral attached, as shown in the picture, or without.

10 large or 16 small scallops
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 branch thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. vin de muscat or another sweet wine*
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 handfuls arugula or another kind of salad leaf

Rinse the scallops and dry them thoroughly: Place them between two layers of paper towels, pat dry, and repeat with fresh towels.

Scatter the greens over two salad plates. No dressing is needed — the juices from the scallops will suffice.

Have the table ready before you begin. Your aim with the scallops is to produce a crispy brown exterior around a meltingly tender heart that is only barely cooked. It goes very fast — and if you tarry, the scallops will toughen.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. When it is very hot, add the butter and the scallops. Sauté the scallops about one minute. Flip them over — they will be a golden brown. Add the thyme and minced garlic and sauté for one minute more. Now add the sweet wine. Simmer for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat, distribute over the greens and serve immediately. Serves 2 as a starter or salad.

If you would like to serve these glorious scallops as a main dish, double the recipe and serve alongside a vegetable or grain or both.

* Vin de muscat is what the French call a ‘vin doux naturel’ because its sweetness comes directly from the vine and not from addition of sugar. It is light and crisp and lovely to the taste, and works very well in cooking. For this recipe, if muscat is not available where you live, try a different sweet wine: white vermouth, sherry, port, Sauternes, or even apple jack (which I’ve tried with fantastic results).

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5 Responses to Coquilles saint-jacques au muscat

  1. Bonnie says:

    Meg, I adore scallops but can’t seem to get this right. I need more info — high heat all throughout while cooking the scallops? Or high first, then medium?? And what’s the procedure for (gasp) frozen scallops?

    • Meg says:

      This is an easy recipe and I assure you that you can get it right! So — first, the scallops need to be dry before you cook them. With frozen scallops, this means defrosting them for a couple of hours at room temperature. I usually do this in a colander to allow the melting liquid to drain away. Then I pat them dry as described in the recipe. As for the heat, good point. You want the olive oil and butter to be quite hot when you add the scallops to the pan, but then you should reduce the heat to medium-high to ensure that the butter doesn’t burn. Please let me know how you do, and happy cooking!

  2. Meg says:

    Yes. The trick is to be sure the scallops are good and dry before putting them in the hot frying pan. Another thing: If you add the butter to the pan and allow it to brown just a little bit before adding the scallops, you are virtually assured a crispy golden crust.

  3. Ann Mah says:

    Love this recipe, though I’ve had subpar results cooking scallops — I can never get that crisp brown crust, no matter how hot the pan. Any tips?

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