Maine Sea Scallops, a Winter Delicacy
This is the first in our guest writer series”What’s Cooking in Maine” by our friend and accomplice Alice Seeger of Belfast.
Yesterday brought us a layer of fresh snow…and scallops for dinner. But this story actually started in June, 2014 when I attended Maine Fare Festival in Belfast. I spent two tasty hours learning about the sweet, succulent scallops harvested in the coastal waters of Maine. Touge Brawn of Maine Dayboat Scallops gave a scallop cooking demonstration, she’s probably the most knowledgeable person on the subject. As she shared her knowledge of scallop fishing and state regulations she prepared and handed around samples of simply prepared Maine Scallops. I couldn’t wait till scallop season for a chance to try some of her recipes!
Touge explained the scallops harvested in state waters are strictly managed by the Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in an effort to maintain a healthy population of scallops. Maine scallops are harvested by either diving or dragging using small boats that return to port each day. They are ‘dry packed’ using no preservatives. The scallop season runs from December 1 to April 15 to avoid conflicting with the lobster industry. If, however, the DMR determines the scallop population too low they can close some fishing areas much earlier, making Maine scallops not only superior to other scallops but also somewhat rare. Add that to the list of great reasons to live in Maine!
The best way to get good Maine scallops is to know a fisherman, or get them from a reputable fish monger or lobster pound. Young’s Lobster Pound in East Belfast offers scallops, but I bought mine in Stockton Springs at the Main Street Market (10 minutes from the campground). If you’re not in Maine you can order dry packed scallops online from MaineDayboatScallops. The color of fresh scallops should range from pale beige to creamy pink, and the meat should have a clean, fresh smell with a moist sheen.
There are lots of wonderful recipes available for scallops. Pan seared, poached, skewered and grilled, immersed in lime juice for Ceviche, simmered in cream for chowder, by starting with fresh Maine scallops it’s hard to go wrong. Of course bacon always works well with any scallop recipe. Add honey to bacon drippings for searing scallops and you’ll think you died and went to heaven. The other day I was inspired by a sign on the sidewalk outside Vinolio on Main Street in Belfast. I decided to give this combination a try.
Seared Scallops with Bacon and Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree
- 1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups including stems)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or coarse salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 or 3 good sized parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 lb sliced bacon
- 12 sea scallops, tough muscles removed
- 6 tablespoons Blood Orange Fused Olive Oil, or strained bacon drippings
- 1/2 lemon or Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar
- Remove the tough muscle from each scallop.
- Place scallops on a paper towel to remove moisture, sprinkle with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper.
- Place scallops in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil, marinate for at least one hour.
- Put cauliflower and parsnips with a pinch of salt, and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower and parsnips are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour off the liquid. Working in batches, puree in a food processor, filling no more than 2/3 full each time. or use an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper. Cauliflower-parsnip puree can be refrigerated up to 2 days; reheat over low heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet, bake until brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often and turning slices as they brown. Remove from pan to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb excess bacon fat. Keep warm.
- Place 4 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil (or strained bacon fat) in a skillet. Heat skillet to screaming hot! Be sure to have your fan on, it will produce some smoke and watch the skillet.
- Add scallops, be sure they do not touch one another. Sear scallops for about 2 minutes, each side.
- Spoon cauliflower-parsnip puree onto plates, add crumbled bacon, top with scallops.
- Give them a squeeze of lemon or a dash of Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar.