Saturday, June 12, 2010

Seared Scallops with Bacon and Spinach


When it's not a special occasion, I typically shy away from buying scallops because they're so darn expensive. However, I recently decided to give Trader Joe's frozen New England wild jumbo scallops a try. They're relatively reasonably priced, and my understanding is that most "fresh" seafood sold in grocery stores has in fact already been frozen and defrosted, so I figured they might be just as good. I wasn't disappointed--these were comparable in flavor and tenderness to scallops I've had in restaurants, if not quite as enormous (one pound was about 18 scallops). I wasn't really able to achieve the intended crispy sear because the skillet filled up with liquid once I put the scallops in---it was like sauteing tofu. I should have pressed the scallops dry more aggressively before cooking, but I suspect that my real problem was not quite giving them enough time to fully defrost in the fridge before cooking. However, I avoided overcooking them (priority #1 when working with scallops or shrimp), and they were still a pleasure to eat atop the delicious bed of bacon-infused spinach.

Recipe by Cooking Light, May 2010
  • 3 center-cut bacon slices
  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo sea scallops
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 12 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 4 lemon wedges (optional)

Cook bacon in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; coarsely chop and set bacon aside. Increase heat to high.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle scallops evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add scallops to drippings in pan; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a plate; keep warm. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add half of spinach; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add remaining half of spinach; cook 2 minutes or just until wilted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Divide spinach mixture among 4 plates; top each serving evenly with crumbled bacon and 3 scallops. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a toasted baguette.

Yield: 4 servings
Estimated Start-to-Finish Time: Not given
Actual Start-to-Finish Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Substitutions: I went ahead and left all of the bacon fat in the skillet while cooking the other ingredients. In keeping with their mission, Cooking Light tends to avoid using any fats, salts, etc. that aren't absolutely necessary, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have everything taste extra bacon-y.


  1. Thanks for splurging on a weeknight :-) Next time we'll make this with buttery grits!

  2. Get ready, a grits post is coming soon!

  3. I find that the best way to draw the water out of scallops is to place them on paper towels, salt them, and then let them sit for a good 20 minutes before cooking. I try to only cook a few at a time in the same pan too. When I overcrowd the pan, I have the same tofu-sauteing experience! A tricky bird, those scallops! Thanks for the tip about TJ's frozen ones - I'll have to check them out!

  4. Thanks Diana, I'll give that a try. I think you'll find that the frozen ones turn out just fine if you defrost them slowly in the fridge, as instructed on the package.

  5. Mmmmmm...Gastronomer is a lucky woman!


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