Searing 101: Restaurant-style scallops

Pan-Seared Scallops made at The International Culinary Center

(CBS News) Heat control is obviously a very important factor in a kitchen.

But it's not what you may think.

Oven temperatures are often cranked all the way up (550F or so) and pans are heated until they smoke. Temperatures like 350F/375F are pretty rare for me now, unless were talking pastry, which is a whole different ballgame of course.

Now cooking regularly entails taking my pan on and off a blasting flame so I don't burn my food, always keeping a folded towel in hand (and I mean always!) so I don't burn myself accidentally, and trying very hard not to light anything, or anyone, on fire. 

Video: Searing scallops 101

It's terrifying at times, not going to lie. But it's super important. And turns out, it was the main source of problems I was having in my kitchen before school...like why fish would fall apart in my pan when trying to flip it, or why my steak would never get the same nice crust like in a fancy steakhouse.

High heat is all it takes.

Watch the video above to learn the fundamentals of sautéing, and make restaurant-style seared scallops.

Pan-Seared Scallops
Adapted from The International Culinary Center
Yield: 8 Servings

Scallops and Veloute

  • 24 Scallops
  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 24 littleneck clams
  • 1 1/4 cup fennel, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup celery, roughly chopped
  • Corn oil, as needed
  • 3 cups dry vermouth
  • 3 6oz bags baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Olive oil, as needed

Salad

  • 2 tablespoons shallot, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fennel, center part thinly julienne (finely sliced)
  • Cooked shellfish, out of the shell
  • 3 tablespoons shellfish cooking liquid
  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
  • Olive oil, as needed

For the Veloute

1. Clean the mussels and clams. Set aside until ready to use.

2. Combine the fennel, shallots, peppercorns, bay leaf and celery. Sweat the mixture in corn oil for 3 minutes.

3. Add the vermouth and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the clams, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, or until all of the clams have opened. Remove the clams and set aside. Cook the mussels in the same manner.

4. Strain the shellfish broth, put in a small pot and reduce, if needed, to about 2 1/3 cups. Reserve the cooked clams and mussels for the salad.

5. Mix the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the shellfish broth in a bowl until combined.

6. Place the mixture in a pot with the remaining shellfish broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer until thickened.

7. Reserve 2 cups of the broth for finishing the veloute, and 1/4 cup of the broth for the salad.

8. Saute the spinach in olive oil until just wilted, then transfer to a towel, and squeeze out all of the excess liquid.

9. Combine the spinach and 2 cups of the thickened shellfish broth in a blender until it reaches a smooth consistency. Taste for seasoning. Cool quickly to keep the bright green color intact.

Salad

1. Sweat the shallots and the fennel in olive oil for 2 minutes, or until soft.

2. Add the 1/4 cup reserved shellfish broth to a clean bowl, add the mascarpone, and whisk until smooth. Add the shallots, fennel, clams and mussels. Season to taste.

For Service

1. Warm the veloute.

2. Season and sear 3 scallops per plate - put a thin layer of olive oil in a saute pan. Place over high heat. When wisps of white smoke begin to form, take your pan off the heat and add your scallops in one at a time, pressing down lightly on each one. Place your pan back on the heat, and turn your flame down to medium-low. When a nice crust develops on one side, flip the scallops and press down lightly on each one. After about 20 seconds, add some cold butter to the pan and baste the scallops with the melted butter, using a spoon until they are cooked all the way through. Drain on a paper towel before serving.

3. Warm the salad. Place the seared scallops on top of a thin layer of the veloute. Top with salad.

  • Alison Stravitz

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