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Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

Large sea scallops, seared and topped with brown butter sauce with capers and lemon zest.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

Featured in 13 Romantic Recipes for a Date Night In

A beautifully seared scallop is a delight to behold and a pleasure to eat. It can be just a little challenging to accomplish though.

First, you need to start with good quality “dry packed” scallops, or natural scallops, not “wet packed” that are soaked in preservatives.

The scallops should be fresh and sweet smelling, not fishy, or you are buying scallops that are past their use-by date.

To get a good sear, you need a strong burner, and a relatively stick-free pan that can withstand the heat, such as a well-seasoned cast iron pan, or a hard anodized aluminum pan.

Scallops are naturally moist, so it takes high heat to sear them properly. If the heat isn’t high enough, your scallops will be overcooked and rubbery by the time they’re browned.

Once you’ve mastered the technique of searing scallops, the world is your “scallop” so to speak. The scallops are perfect just as they are, with perhaps a squirt of lemon.

Or you can take them a notch higher, as we’ve done here with this sauce of browned butter, white wine, lemon zest, and capers.

The browned butter enhances the natural butteriness of the scallops, while the wine, lemon, and capers help cut through the richness of the scallops. Enjoy!

Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce Recipe

When shopping for scallops, choose only scallops that have a fresh, sweet smell. If they smell fishy, they're not fresh and they won't taste good.

If you have a choice, look for "dry pack" instead of "wet pack" scallops. The dry pack scallops will sear well. The wet pack ones are almost impossible to sear.

The trick to cooking scallops is to sear them on very high heat. If the heat isn't high enough, the scallops will take too long to brown, and get overcooked and rubbery.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 pound sea scallops (about a dozen)*
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

*Sea scallops are the large scallops (about 1 1/2 inches wide), different from their much smaller cousins, bay scallops.

Method

1 Brown the butter: Cut up the butter into pieces (a tablespoon each or so) and place in a stainless steel saucepan. Melt the butter on medium heat. Allow the butter to foam up and recede. Watch carefully. After a few minutes, the milk solids will form and sink to the bottom.

Once the milk solids begin to turn caramel-colored brown, the butter will have a lovely nutty aroma.

Remove from heat and pour the browned butter into a separate bowl to stop the cooking. (Pay attention! If you wait too long, you'll have blackened butter, not browned butter.) Set aside.

2 Remove "foot" and pat dry scallops: Remove the "foot" of the scallop from each scallop. (The foot is a small tough piece of meat that attaches the scallop to the shell.) Pat dry the scallops.

3 Sear the scallops on both sides on high heat: Heat the oil in a cast iron pan or hard-anodized aluminum sauté pan on high heat.

When the oil is shimmery hot, pat dry the scallops again and carefully place them in the pan, flat side down.

You may need to work in batches so you don't crowd the pan.

Once you've placed the scallops in the pan, do not move them. Allow them to sear.

Once you can see that the edges of the scallops touching the pan have browned, use tongs to turn the scallops over and sear the other side. Depending on the size of the scallops and the heat of your burner, this should take 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Once both sides are browned, remove the scallops to a warm plate, and turn off the burner.

4 Deglaze pan with white wine: Pour out the remaining oil from the pan, leaving any browned bits in the pan. Add the white wine to the pan and return the pan to the burner on high heat.

Let the wine boil and reduce until you have 2 tablespoons of liquid left in the pan.

5 Add capers, lemon zest, brown butter: Then turn off the heat, add the capers, lemon zest, and brown butter to the pan. Swirl to combine.

6 Serve scallops with sauce: Place scallops on serving plates and pour sauce over them. Serve immediately.

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Preparation

Step 1

Cut 2 lemons in half and squeeze juice into a measuring glass or small bowl you should have ¼ cup juice. Set aside. Using a paring knife, cut ends off remaining lemon to expose flesh. Upend lemon on a cut end and remove peel and white pith from lemons discard. Cut between membranes to release segments into bowl with juice squeeze membranes to get any last drops of juice. Fish out any seeds set aside. Thinly slice chives and place in a small bowl set aside.

Step 2

Pull side muscle off scallops, if needed pat dry. Season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet, preferably stainless steel, over medium-high. Pour in oil to lightly coat surface (2–3 Tbsp.) heat until it shimmers and you see first wisps of smoke. Swiftly place scallops into skillet, flat side down, and cook without touching, tossing, or fussing until underside is deep golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Use a thin spatula or tongs to gently turn over if they resist, cook another 30 seconds and try again. Cook on second side until flesh at top and bottom looks opaque but there is still a faintly translucent strip in the middle, 1–2 minutes, depending on size. Transfer scallops to a plate.

Step 3

Pour off any oil in skillet and set over medium heat. Add butter and cook, swirling, until butter foams, then browns, about 2 minutes. Add reserved lemon juice and segments energetically stir and swirl pan to emulsify sauce. Mix in capers and reserved chives and spoon pan sauce around and over scallops.


How to make scallops from frozen

I typically buy scallops from the grocery store at the deli, but this time I wanted to change it up. So I opted for the frozen variety to try (also much more affordable). The verdict? You can barely tell. The frozen sea scallops I purchased were a bit smaller than the ones I normally get and you have to trim the side muscle off. See the picture below.

It’s basically a little tag on the scallop that you can just pull away using your fingers.

Why do you need to remove the side muscle? It’s more fibrous than the rest of the scallop because it’s a muscle. Therefore it will be more firm and tough if you cook it. Most chefs peel or cut it off.

Now onto the brown butter sage sauce.


Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce - Recipes

Seared Scallops With Brown Butter and Lemon Pan Sauce 5/5 (1)

medium prep time 10 mins | cook time 10 mins servings 0

Ingredients

12 large dry sea scallops

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 teaspoons drained capers

2 teaspoons La Fe White Cooking Wine

Directions

Cut 2 lemons in half and squeeze juice into a measuring glass or small bowl you should have 1/4 cup juice. Set aside. Using a paring knife, cut ends off remaining lemon to expose flesh. Upend lemon on a cut end and remove peel and white pith from lemons discard. Cut between membranes to release segments into bowl with juice squeeze membranes to get any last drops of juice. Fish out any seeds set aside. Thinly slice chives and place in a small bowl set aside.

Pull side muscle off scallops, if needed pat dry. Season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet, preferably stainless steel, over medium-high. Pour in oil to lightly coat the surface (2–3 Tbsp.) heat until it shimmers and you see first wisps of smoke. Swiftly place scallops into the skillet, flat side down, and cook without touching, tossing, or fussing until underside is deep golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Use a thin spatula or tongs to gently turn over if they resist, cook another 30 seconds and try again. Cook on the second side until flesh at top and bottom looks opaque but there is still a faintly translucent strip in the middle, 1–2 minutes, depending on size. Transfer scallops to a plate.

Pour off any oil in a skillet and set over medium heat. Add butter and cook, swirling, until butter foams, then browns, about 2 minutes. Add reserved lemon juice and segments energetically stir and swirl the pan to emulsify the sauce. Mix in capers and reserved chives and spoon pan sauce around and over scallops.

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I get it&mdashsome of us don&rsquot want to take the risk of overcooking scallops at home because we don&rsquot want to waste a lot of money. So occasionally, we order them at a fancy restaurant. They arrive looking marvelous, so artfully served&hellipall three of them. (I don&rsquot know about you, but three is never enough for me.)

May I suggest an alternative?

With the sous vide method, you can make restaurant-quality sea scallops in your own kitchen at a fraction of the price, every single time. No more overcooked scallops, no more fear. Oh, and let&rsquos be generous with the servings, shall we?

This is precisely why I want to show you how to sous vide scallops at home. Read on.

(If you are new to sous vide, check out my complete guide to sous vide cooking and download the PDF version for free.)


Cook the Scallops

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season them with the salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of 2 large skillets with clarified butter (see recipe to make it below). Place the pans over a medium-high flame and heat until the butter is nearly smoking.

Divide the scallops between the pans do not shake the pans or move the scallops around. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and add a little more clarified butter to each pan.

Cook the scallops until they are deeply brown on one side, about 3 minutes.

Turn the scallops over, and add a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic to each pan. Allow the scallops to brown slightly on the other side, continuously basting them with the hot butter, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the scallops to a platter with a slotted spoon and reserve in a warm place.

Add the 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits remove the pan from the heat when the butter is completely melted.

Pour an equal portion of the emulsion onto each plate in a wide stripe down the center.

Place an equal portion of scallops, browned side up, in the center of each plate, spoon the pan drippings around, and serve immediately.


Recipe Summary

  • 1/3 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Eight 1 1/2-inch cauliflower florets, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (24 slices)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 12 large sea scallops, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a small saucepan, combine the capers, raisins and 3/4 cup of water. Simmer over moderately low heat until the raisins are plump, 10 to 15 minutes do not boil. Transfer to a blender and puree. With the blender on, add 6 tablespoons of the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Add the sherry vinegar to the caper-raisin sauce and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the cauliflower and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed plate, then repeat with 1 tablespoon each of the butter and oil and the remaining cauliflower. Let the skillet cool for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook over moderate heat, scraping up any browned bits, 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and pour the pan sauce over the cauliflower keep warm.

In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and add half to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat, without turning, until the scallops are golden brown on the bottom, 3 minutes transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil and the scallops. Rewarm the caper-raisin sauce.

Spoon the raisin sauce onto 4 plates. Top with the scallops, browned side up. Arrange a cauliflower slice on each scallop, spoon a little of the pan sauce over and garnish with the nutmeg. Serve at once.


Reviews

This was Delicious. Easy to make, and I've never made scallops before. I'm also using this recipe for very special occasions. Or company.

Amazing. Made it with fresh rosemary and thyme—couldn’t believe how easy, fast, and SUPER tasty. Don’t overcook the scallops!

Delicious and EASY! My husband loved it (and so did I!)

Simple and delicious--I used thyme for the herbs and served with crusty bread to mop up the brown butter sauce. This recipe does hinge on the quality of the scallops.

Made this tonight, exactly as it read. Very good.

Yummy. Needs no change. I used sage.

I made this to accompany Lobster tails and it was amazing. I used Sage and thought it worked out perfect.

Really excellent. The lemon juice adds a nice burst of acidity. I might try a little white wine next time.

Excellent basic recipe. Lovely as is, easy to riff off of. Dry scallops and no crowding are key. Let quality ingredients shine.

I made these using thym, which is what I had on hand. It was easy and some kind of delicious. My husband loved it, we'll be eating this often!

Made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! I used sage , thyme and tarragon and the combination of herbs really was wonderful. Remember to allow the butter to really brown, that's how you get that nutty flavor. My only regret is not reading the reviews about how to dry the scallops. I didn't get a great sear and there was much too much liquid. The next time I will do more research on that!

This is the only way I will make scallops. Delicious, easy and did I say delicious? My friend who is a scallop fan said they were 5 thumbs up. Be sure to use good scallops, of course, but if you follow the directions they will turn out scrumptious!

I made these this recipe and thought it was just okay. I think the success of this recipe is in the scallops you buy. I did not get a 'sear' just a lot of liquid. The flavor was fine, not a lot of brown butter sauce though.

to "Cook From Chapel Hill" . Thank You! You Rock!

Just made these for dinner. Easy. Elegant. Delicious. I used thyme for the seasoning (next time I want to try sage just to see) and I even used non-dairy vegan butter and it still turned out delicious.

Excellent, simple recipe that allows the flavor of the scallops to come through. (Try using champagne to deglaze.) For those worrying about not drying the scallops properly, that adjective refers to the process of soaking scallops after catching them rather than patting them dry. Read more here: http://www.fishex.com/scallops/wet-vs-dry, or here: http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-wet-dry-a-58059

Made this last Sunday, to the delight of Husband. He is a big scallop fan. Living in the Mojave Desert, one can't be picky about "dry" scallops--when there are good ones at the grocery, you buy them and dry them yourself at home on paper towels. I thought this recipe was reasonably good, but next time I think I'll add a little garlic when making the pan sauce at the end. The scallops were moist, tender, nicely crusted and very good--but not fall-down-dead delicious. Will make again because it is sooooo easy and reasonably good.


Pat the scallops dry.

Before seasoning and searing, pat the scallops dry. This will help the scallops sear as they hit the skillet and hot oil. Wet scallops won’t get that good sear. All you need for drying scallops is a clean paper towel. Just pat the scallops on both sides until the moisture is removed.


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Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

Scallop Recipes : Seared Scallops With Brown Butter Caper Sauce

Rigatoni with accessible amazon booze for Mother's Day, photographed on Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Photo by Robert Cohen, [email protected]

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Preparation

For the scallops:

Remove the small muscle attached to the scallops and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

In a large sauté pan, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the scallops into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes until browned. Flip the scallops and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and let rest on a paper towel-lined plate in a warm spot while you make the sauce.

For the caper beurre blanc:

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, sauté the shallots and capers in 1 tablespoon of butter until the shallots are translucent. Add the wine and lemon juice and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, stirring frequently.

Add the cream, salt and pepper and continue to cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter a little at a time, whisking continuously. Once all the butter is in, remove from heat.

Skewer a scallop on a nice dinner fork and dip halfway into the beurre blanc. Set gently on your serving platter. Repeat with another scallop and spoon a little more sauce onto the plate so that the scallops are sitting in a small pool of it.