Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Garlic Sauce


Pan Seared Scallops with lemon garlic sauce is an easy to master gourmet meal all made in one pan. The seafood is brined first for extra flavor and tenderness as is cooks in the hot pan. A tangy citrus cream sauce coats each tasty scallop.


Brining scallops in a salt solution helps to more deeply season them inside, not just on the surface while retaining moisture. They are very lean in protein with little fat. Without the insulation, there’s a greater chance for them to become rubbery and dry. The saltwater adds a little extra insurance, and only take 10 minutes.

To achieve the attractive caramel kissed surface, the scallops must be as dry as possible. Use plenty of paper towels to soak up the moisture after brining. This ensures the scallops will brown instead of steam when they hit the hot pan. Further drying them uncovered in the refrigerator can also help remove extra moisture.

I found that stainless steel or cast iron gives a nice deep color, however, nonstick pans work well too but should not be used over high heat. Basting the scallops in the final minutes of cooking with butter adds a little extra boost of vibrancy. The milk proteins and lactose in the butter brown which sticks to the outside for an irresistible crust.

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Garlic Sauce

Pan seared scallops with lemon garlic sauce is a gourmet meal. The seafood is brined first for extra flavor and tenderness as is cooks in the hot pan.

Ingredients

Brine

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt(90g, 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup hot water(240ml)
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 1 pound scallops(454g) U15 size, 14 to 16 per pound

Pan Seared Scallops

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil(30ml)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter(30g, 1 ounce)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic(8g)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice(30ml)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard(15ml)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream(30ml)
  • black pepperas needed for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dill

Instructions

Brine

  • Combine salt and hot water in a medium bowl, stir until the salt is mostly dissolved. Add ice cubes, once the water is cold add scallops.
  • Brine scallops for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels.
  • Place another sheet of paper towel on top of scallops, gently pressing until each piece is dry. The drier the scallops, the better the sear. 
  • Allow scallops to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
  • Right before cooking, lightly season both sides with salt. 

Pan Seared Scallops

  • Heat a large 12-inch pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Once hot, add scallops to the pan in a single layer.
  • Gently press scallops with a spatula so that they make direct contact with the pan.
  • Pan sear until golden brown on the surface, not moving them, about 3 minutes. 
  • Add butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  • Flip scallops over, use and spoon to baste with butter, tilting the pan as needed and cook until firm but tender, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and transfer to a clean plate.
  • Using the same pan to cook the scallops, turn the heat up to medium.
  • Add in garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  • Add in lemon juice and lemon zest, scrape the pan to remove any browned bits and stir into the sauce, cook about 1 minute. 
  • Turn off the heat and whisk in Dijon mustard. Add in cream and whisk to combine.
  • If needed, add in some water to the sauce if you want a thinner consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  • Add scallops back to the pan, and warm over low heat, 2 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped dill and black pepper, serve warm.

Notes

If you don’t have the option to purchase dry scallops, just add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the brine and that will help remove some of the chemicals and mask the soapy taste.

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