Scallops are a succulent food of the sea that has a somewhat mysterious story to tell. Many of us simply buy them from the seafood section of the local grocers, and never know anything about the actual steps it took to get on that bed of ice.
Here is a little bit of history and what to look for in order to enjoy the very best of this tasty food.
Living right on the coast of Maine, our seasonal eating is not it was in the Midwest. Tourists stand in line for hours to eat a single pound lobster, and we freeze them in 50 pound batches for winter eating. The same can be said for all the seafood; fish, clams, and of course scallops. At our place, it's not uncommon for our date-night to involve a double garden salad topped with a small order of scallops at the local diner. We can get in and out in an hour, eating the equivalent of a quick bite, before getting back to the farm. If you live even 20 miles inland, this fresh meal seems a bit over the top. The truth is, a hamburger costs more for us! Isn't regional eating fascinating?
A scallop is a bivalve mollusk, a fancy name for a food that has a pretty outer shell. Mollusks are beautifully creamy colored in their normal harvest state. They are harvested by divers, or by drag nets. When a scallop is hand picked, they are sold as Diver's scallops and tend to be larger, since divers tend to pick the larger specimens.
Wet Packed vs. Dry Packed
Scallops are sold as wet packed or dry packed. These two distinctions are very different when they finally hit the pan. Scallops are harvested out at sea and held until the ship has been filled before returning to shore. Wet-packed scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that makes them white and absorb more liquid. These plumped up scallops do look appealing, but they lose their liquid when cooked and the solution gives them a soapy flavor.
Dry-packed scallops are packed in ice and shipped. On a culinary note, if you are planning on searing your scallops, you must use dry pack. The release of that extra moisture in a wet pack product will cause them to simply steam and never get that rich golden color you want. If you get the chance, dry pack scallops are the way to go.
Delicious and perfect, scallops are worth buying fresh if you are lucky enough to live next to the coast, and preferably dry-packed. Just wait until you taste the difference! Below are some scallop recipes for you to enjoy: