"If there is a candy of the sea, it's scallops," says chef David Levi of Vinland restaurant in Portland, Maine. Levi's enthusiasm for scallops is echoed by chefs and home cooks everywhere, who have made scallops one of the most popular types of seafood around. We understand why: these bivalve mollusks cook in just minutes, are versatile enough to go from ceviche to pasta, seem to make even a weeknight dinner feel special, and are easy to shop for, whether you are hitting a specialty fish market or your regular grocery store.
There are two common varieties of scallops — bay scallops and sea scallops. They are named for where they are sourced, whether farmed or wild. Both types of scallops are available year-round, but are at their peak in late fall and winter. Their color ranges from pale pink to cream but color is not an indicator of freshness or flavor. The most obvious difference between these two types of shellfish is their size; bay scallops are significantly smaller than sea scallops. The flavor and texture of each also varies: Bay scallops are known for being slightly sweeter and more tender than sea scallops, which tend to be firmer and brinier.
"Incredibly sweet and firm, scallops are truly one of the most delicious foods in the world, and there's very little one needs to do to prepare them," Levi says. We agree. Start by searing them in a pan or wok; scallops only require a couple minutes on each side to achieve that beautiful golden crust. With a little self-control — don't touch them, move them around the pan or continuously flip — your scallops will be perfect every time. From there, try other ways to cook scallops. Poach them in wine or dashi, wrap them in bacon, braise them with chiles and tomatoes, stir them into risotto or pasta, or bake them in a buttery pie crust. You can even turn chopped scallops into a burger, or simply marinate them in acidic citrus juices to make scallop ceviche. Ready to start? Our guide to scallops will help you along the way, for easy weeknight dinners and casual nights on the patio to dinner parties and other special celebrations.
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