I love butter. As a child of the ’70s and ’80s, I was raised on margarine. But my grandmother, an Iowa farm girl, always infused her dishes with butter and lard, and I could taste the difference.
When it comes to seafood, I eat it all. I love the briny flavors of the ocean and don’t discriminate between shellfish, finfish, roe, seaweed. But if I had to choose a favorite, it would be scallops, the butter of the sea, churned by the tides and wrapped in a beautiful shell.
I am lucky to live by the ocean, close to the nation’s largest source of scallops. When Togue Brawn, who direct markets the local catch through her company Downeast Dayboat, mentioned that she was shipping scallops in a frenzy before the northern Gulf of Maine closed for the year, I jumped on it. How much? Well, she tells me, the guys are getting $17.50 off the boat. Would you pay $20 for a pound of the world’s freshest scallops to be delivered to your door? My next question was, “How much do you have left?”
Most of the Atlantic scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) on the market are from trip boats, which go out for several days and keep their catch in ice. They deliver to the dock, which sells to wholesalers, which supply the markets. By the time you get the scallops home, they’re probably more than a week old. And still they’re some of the best food you’ll ever eat.
Now imagine you get those scallops within hours of their being plucked from the sea, the shucked meat has never touched ice or water. You may have had the best scallops of your life. But once you try them fresh off a dayboat, you’ll know you were eating margarine all along.
When it comes to seafood, this is the pinnacle for me. In my opinion, this dish requires no sauce. But for a little something extra, I enjoy this miso-honey glaze as a dip. I like to slide my fork into the sauce and then into the scallop.
1 pound scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound pasta (spaghetti, linguine or similar)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup fresh arugula
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Lemon wedges to garnish
Prepare your pasta, drain and set aside. Pat your scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat a large heavy sauté pan on medium-high, then add the oil and butter. Sear scallops until caramel brown, 1-2 minutes per side. Set them aside on a warm (not hot) plate. Add the pasta to the scallop pan with the heat off. Toss with parmesan and arugula and serve alongside the scallops.
Honey Miso Sauce
4 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 scallion, greens only
Stir miso and water together, add honey to taste and garnish with chopped scallion.