Never fresher scallops

January 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Well, it’s still winter here in Five Islands. Thankfully, the last couple of weeks have been pretty easy on us, until today. It was just 10° when I took the dogs for a walk this morning. But because the sun was out, it felt more like 12°, so not too bad. The December snow had almost completely melted before the first January snow came this week. I enjoyed the respite, and right now the streets are clear, making walking and driving no problem.

While I like to complain about the winter, I am actually thrilled that this time of year brings us a new bounty from the sea. Next week, the short Maine shrimp season begins, and I am really looking forward to that. As I mentioned during the “week” of seven fishes, scallop season is under way. (And if you want to say it like the Mainers do, it rhymes with trollop.) Last night I finally scored my first batch of the freshest scallops you can imagine. Literally, I got them right off the boat!

I’ve never had scallops this fresh before. I asked the fisherman to give them to me in the shell because I am a big fan of scallop roe, and it’s almost impossible to find in US seafood markets. A few years back the fish market at Black Salt in DC did come through for me with scallops in the shell on a special order, so they get a star in my book.

It was an entirely different experience getting the scallops so fresh and intact. These scallops were very much alive and not terribly interested in being the main attraction in our dinner. They opened their shells wide and then snapped them shut in self-defense. I can now say I have been bitten by a scallop. Thankfully since they do not have teeth, no injuries were recorded. Amy was freaked out a bit by the way they were moving on the counter and snapping their shells. It was pretty wild.

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A fair amount of work goes into cleaning fresh scallops. You must open the shell, remove the membrane, cut off the stomach and “catch” muscle, and then clean the adductor muscle and any roe, which are the parts you eat. But it’s worth it. And since I call the “picker’s prerogative” whenever I cook, clean, and pick lobsters, I also get to call the “shucker’s prerogative” in scallop prep. It was great snacking on scallop sashimi right out of the shell.

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In addition to the scallops, the fishermen brought me a bag of scallop guts. I know, this sounds weird. But when I told them I was interested in scallops with roe in the shell, they figured I might want some of the extra roe that they normally just toss overboard along with a lot of guts attached. Very thoughtful of them. So I cleaned up the extras and ended up with a nice batch of about 30 scallop roe sacks. I’m a big eater, but this was too much for me, so I’m passing them along to a local chef who will put them to good use. I’ll be very curious to hear how he incorporates fresh scallop roe into his menu this weekend.

Amy and I were content with the roe that came with our scallops in the shell and a few extra for good measure. Given that we had such an abundance, I wanted to do a raw preparation as well as a cooked one. When you’ve got scallops this fresh, you have to eat some of them raw. I had a daikon radish and a good English-style cucumber. My mandolin came in handy here. No, I didn’t bust out any crazy rhythms. I am talking about my mandolin slicer. This is a great kitchen tool that makes very thin slices and matchsticks of firm vegetables. I topped the cucumber slices and radish matchsticks with a soy-lime-ginger sauce and then thinly sliced (with a sharp knife, not the mandolin) my scallops. Oishi.

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For the main course, I sautéed cremini mushrooms, leeks, and garlic, and then added a bit of butter and half and half to make a sauce. I sautéed the scallops and roe in butter for a few minutes on each side.
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I then served them with some black rice and the mushroom-leek combo. (Editor’s note: I’m leaving out the picture of the final dish because my food photography skills are so awful, they just didn’t do it justice.)

In restaurant-speak, the flavor profile of the roe is hard to define. It is definitely a different taste than the scallop itself. There is more bite to the roe than the scallop. And I think the taste is more subtle, but definitely a shot of the ocean. If you can, try it for yourself.

That’s all for now. Next up, Maine shrimp season.

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