Seared sea scallops w/ cilantro tzatziki
The Saturday farmer’s market by Brooklyn Borough Hall has a good fish vendor year-round, and yesterday I could not walk by without grabbing sea scallops. Although I only tend to cook sea scallops for a special occasion, they are actually super easy. Heat oil in an iron skillet until nearly smoking and cook scallops a minute per side, literally. The important thing is getting good scallops — sashimi grade and dry-packed. Cheaper, wet-packed scallops are treated with a chemical and will likely be displayed in a pool of liquid – yuck. A trusty fish shop, Whole Foods or Fresh Direct (for you tri-staters) are all good bets. Just steer clear of Chinatown.
.5 pound dry sea scallops (about 10 scallops total)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed of tips
.5 cup Greek yoghurt (nonfat is fine)
1t extra virgin olive oil
juice of one half lemon
1 small bunch cilantro, washed and dried
.25t hot pepper flakes
salt + pepper
plain olive or grapeseed oil for cooking
Make tzatziki. Trim leaves from cilantro and set aside — throw away stems. Pulse whole garlic cloves with cilantro in a mini chopper until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, yoghurt and 1t olive oil. Pulse with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings to taste, move to small bowl and set in fridge.
Lay scallops on cutting board. Trim tendon — it’s a small strip of hard white flesh – and discard. If scallops are not of uniform size, you may want to slice larger ones in half. Sprinkle scallops with plenty of salt and pepper.
Have two dinner plates ready, with a dollop of tzatziki in the middle, as well as a small plate next to your stove. Heat a cast iron skillet on a high flame for a few minutes, then add enough oil to cover pan in a thin layer. Let oil heat until nearly smoking. Now add half the scallops. You want to add them all at the same time, and leave some space in between each one.
Do not stir or touch scallops at all while cooking. Just cook for 1 minute and flip. Cook scallops for a minute on the other side, and move to small plate.
You want scallops that are seared on both sides but just cooked in center. Slice a larger scallop down middle. An uncooked scallop will be pinkish or peachy in center, with a slightly tough texture. A perfectly cooked one slices very cleanly and is pure white in center. All but an enormous scallop should not need more than another 30 – 60 seconds — an overcooked scallop will become rubbery.
Plate first batch of scallops over tzatziki and cook second batch per above instructions. Plate and serve right away.