Wednesday Dec 13

Melissa-Scallops_Jalapeno For the longest time, the scallops I ordered in restaurants tasted better to me than the ones I cooked. In fact, I almost gave up on using them in my kitchen for fear of offending my guests. Then I made a big breakthrough—I bought some fresh, sweet-smelling scallops from a nearby market, and I wanted to pop them in my mouth immediately. Dry packed scallops not only taste better, cook better, and look better than frozen ones, they're also not filled with water, phosphates, or any other substances (sometimes chemical, harmful) that cause them to weigh more when they're purchased. And who needs soap in their scallops?

Searing scallops requires bursts of patience. Once they hit the pan, as much as I want to, I can’t even begin to think about turning them for at least 90 seconds. It always feels like an eternity. If I even sneak a peek, I risk ruining that crispy, delicious crust. When they’re ready to be flipped, it’s a mad rush to turn them quickly so each mollusk cooks equally, evenly.

Pat the scallops with paper towels to ensure that they’re dry enough to get a golden crust. If they’re wet, or even just a little moist, they have a tendency to steam, get mushy, and a crispy coating will never form. This is also the result if they’re touching one another in the pan. Be sure to give them plenty of room to cook. While olive oil works well, too (or even a mixture of oil and butter), I prefer to sear scallops in butter. Clarified butter works better than regular salted or unsalted butter since it has a higher smoke point and doesn’t burn as easily when cooking scallops in batches.

The Asian-inspired vinaigrette can be whipped up in seconds, and I often have all the ingredients (except the jalapeños and scallops) in the fridge or pantry. Add the jalapeño seeds (or more jalapeños) for more heat.


  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon green onion (green and white parts), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Dash sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • Dash sea salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the first 5 ingredients together (through fish sauce). Stir in the green onions through garlic. Add sea salt, to taste. Set aside.
  2. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium-high until hot.
  4. Add about half the scallops, or only enough to avoid overcrowding.
  5. Cook about 2 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.
  6. Sear the remaining scallops.
  7. Spoon vinaigrette over the scallops and serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings

Melissa-Edgehouse Melissa Askren Edgehouse, an assistant professor at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, cooks, cleans, shops, teaches, and authors