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Scallops
Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Storage
Preparation


Why Eat It

Many people who are fond of neither fish nor shellfish like tender-firm scallops, which have a mild, sweet flavor. The nuggets of pinkish-white meat (actually the single muscle that opens and closes this bivalve's handsome fan-shaped shell) are sold shucked and trimmed, so it's an easy form of seafood to prepare and cook.

There are many traditional ways of serving scallops, including ceviche (or seviche), in which raw scallops are marinated in lime juice. However, while the marinade changes their color and texture, it doesn't eliminate the risk of parasites. Otherwise, serve scallops sauteed, simmered, grilled, or baked.

Varieties

Bay scallops: Bay scallops, which are harvested in shallow Northeastern and Gulf coastal waters, are small--about the size of a quarter in diameter--with a very delicate flavor.

Sea scallops: Sea scallops, found in deeper waters, are larger (about 1 1/2" across), much more common, and therefore less expensive than bay scallops. They can be halved or quartered to use in recipes that call for bay scallops, although their flavor is more pronounced.

Calico scallops: Calico scallops are small sea scallops from Florida that are sometimes sold as bay scallops. They are the least expensive scallops; because the shells are steamed to open them, these scallops reach the consumer in a partially cooked state.

Availability

Although scallops are most plentiful during fall and winter, fresh and frozen sea scallops are sold all year.

Storage

Possibly the most perishable of all foodstuffs, any type of shellfish is highly susceptible to bacterial contamination and growth once it dies or gets too warm. Therefore, when you buy scallops, it is imperative to keep them cold until you are ready to cook and serve them. Uncooked scallops should be stored like fish and used the same day you buy them.

You can freeze scallops, but they are better if cooked before freezing. Freeze all cooked shellfish in airtight containers or tightly sealed heavy-duty freezer bags. Frozen raw or cooked, scallops will keep for two months if the freezer is set at 0°F or colder. Thaw frozen scallops in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.

Preparation

Scallops are purchased ready to cook. The trick to cooking scallops is to heat them sufficiently to destroy harmful organisms, but not so long as to make the flesh too tough. This requires careful monitoring, as scallops can be toughened by just seconds of overcooking. Scallops undergo a characteristic change when cooked, this can help you judge doneness: They turn opaque and their flesh is just firm, not soft.

In some cases these changes may take place before the flesh reaches an internal temperature compatible with safe eating. Scallops should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F, which usually requires at least six minutes.

Baking: Scallops respond well to this method if the baking is carefully timed. In some cases, it helps to protect the food from the full intensity of the dry heat with a sauce or coating, a topping of vegetables, or by combining scallops with other ingredients in a casserole. Scallops also turn out moist if baked in parchment or foil packets; top the scallops with lemon and herbs for flavor. To bake in packets, place the scallops on a large square of cooking parchment or foil, fold the wrapping over the contents, crimp the edges together to seal it and bake until just done--about five minutes, or according to the recipe.

Broiling/grilling: Scallops can be grilled on skewers or broiled in the oven. A marinade or baste will keep the scallops moist as they cook.

Poaching: Poach scallops in fish stock, or a mixture of water and lemon juice or wine and flavor the poaching liquid with herbs, if you like. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, add the scallops, partially cover the pan, and poach until done.


Date Published: 04/21/2005
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