June 23, 2009

Scallops are one of the overlooked possibilities for a speedy weeknight meal. Though I tend to think of them as special-occasion food, they're wonderfully versatile, quick-cooking, and not a whole lot more expensive than shrimp.

Yesterday I needed a quick and easy (yet special) meal for Father's Day. So I picked up a pound of scallops at the Piggly Wiggly for $11. (Shrimp was running about $8 a pound.)

Browsing our 20-Minute Seafood gallery, I found several scallop options, including this recipe for Gingered Scallops. Luckily, I had all the ingredients on hand: ginger, green onions, ginger, lemon juice, honey, soy sauce, and rice.

Scallops are one of the items I tend to order out, but rarely cook at home. It had been a while since I'd prepared them. But I remembered a recent chat with my Test Kitchens pal (and fellow blogger) Tiffany Vickers, who told me that the secret to properly seared scallops is a very hot cast-iron skillet.

"You want your pan to stay hot," she said. "Crazy hot. With a little bit of oil."

Tiffany also let me in on the trick to avoiding the "rubber eraser" effect, when good scallops lose their juices and assume the texture of the troubleshooting end of a No. 2 Ticonderoga.

"Whatever you do," she said, "don't overcrowd the pan. That will reduce the temperature of the pan. And if your scallops are too close to one another, they'll start steaming. Sometimes it's best to do them in batches."

I followed her advice, and got the caramelized crust that defines the difference between a good scallop and a wasted one. It took between one and two minutes on each side (so avoid all distractions while cooking them). A quick toss in the instant pan sauce, and they were ready to be served atop rice. From start to finish, it took me 10 to 15 minutes.

The result? A very happy Father's Day for a scallop-loving spouse.

Like this? See more 20-minute scallop recipes:

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