Caramelized Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash Purée
Scallops are one of the most iconic seafoods in New England as they are known worldwide for their tender, firm, and briny flesh. Their overall importance to the New England Fishing Industry cannot be overstated as New Bedford, Massachusetts is the highest grossing port in the United States and scallops play a critical role within this market. Abundant off New England's shores, scallops are sustainably managed and harvested to ensure the fishery remains vibrant for future generations. Over the past year, the scallop fishery quotas have been reduced by 15% due to the acidification of our oceans. The warmer ocean temperatures are slowing the calcification process of the scallop shells resulting in a longer time for them to mature. Even though the fishery is experiencing these changes, we can still enjoy these gems of the sea as they are being properly managed and the fleet is committed towards the longevity of the stock's off our coasts.
In this exquisite dish, we will be caramelizing scallops and pairing them with a creamy butternut squash purée. We typically use U20 scallops for this recipe but larger sizes can be prepared as well. As a note, scallops are sized by the number that amount to one pound. In this example, approximately 20 medium size scallops will be used. We begin by soaking the scallops in a briny solution of warm salt water for approximately 10 minutes. The brine helps tenderize the scallops and enhance their natural flavors. You will notice the scallops will emerge slightly firmer to the touch after soaking for their allotted time. Once complete, place each scallop on a paper towel and pat dry.
While the scallops are in the brine start preparing your clarified butter. Clarifying butter removes the milk solids from the butter which helps prevent it from burning when it is cooked over high heat. To begin the clarifying process, heat a saucepan over low heat and add a stick of butter. As the butter begins to melt, you will notice white foam that begins to rise to the top. This is the milk solids that you will want to remove with a spoon. The clarification of the butter should not take longer than 3-5 minutes. Once complete, pour the clarified butter into a separate bowl and let it begin to cool.
Now the fun begins, caramelizing scallops! Heat the clarified butter over medium/high heat in a stainless steel or cast iron frying pan. We use either of these frying pans as they caramelize the scallops best by conducting the heat from the stovetop in a great fashion. Once the clarified butter begins to ripple, place the scallops into the pan in a clockwise fashion. This will help you remember which scallops went in first and what order they need to be flipped in. Scallops cook quickly, so this trick that Gordon Ramsey uses is vital when searing scallops. As the scallops are caramelizing, sprinkle salt and squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of each of them. After 2-3 minutes, peak at the side that is facing down to see if it has reached the golden brown color we are looking for. Once ready, flip the scallops and cook for an additional 2 minutes. The scallops will be complete when their meat provides some resistance and is opaque in the middle.
We will be pairing the scallops with a creamy butternut squash purée that has only a few ingredients and is quick to prepare. The longest portion of this recipe is roasting the butternut squash in the oven. We recommend roasting the squash first as you begin to prepare the brine and clarified butter as it will take 30-45 minutes. Once the the butternut squash has been roasted, combine it with the butter, vegetable stock, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a blender. Be sure to blend on a high setting to ensure the texture is smooth.
To plate, place the butternut squash purée on your dish in a thin fashion. Next, place the scallops on top while garnishing with salt, pepper, and squeezes of fresh lemon juice. Be sure to snap a few pics as your friends and family will be amazed by the presentation of this dish. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 45 mins
Caramelized Sea Scallops
- 1 lb Scallops
- 1 Tablespoon Clarified Butter
- 2 Cups Boiling Water
- 8 Cups Cold Water
- 1 Cup Kosher Salt
- Salt & Pepper
- 2 Lemon Wedges
Butternut Squash Purée
- 1 Large Butternut Squash
- ¼ Cup Vegetable Stock
- 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
- Salt & Pepper
- Vegetable Oil
Butternut Squash Purée
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a large butternut squash in half and roast on a baking sheet until tender (30-45 minutes). Prior to placing in the oven, salt and oil the butternut squash.
- Once the butternut squash is roasted, peel the skin off the squash and place in a blender. You should be able to take a spoon and easily remove the squash from the skin. Then, add the maple syrup, butter, and vegetable stock to the blender and stir around. Blend the ingredients on a high setting to ensure a smooth texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Caramelized Sea Scallops
- Begin by preparing the brine for your scallops. Combine two cups of hot water, eight cups of cold water, and one cup of kosher salt in a large bowl. Carefully place the scallops in the brine and let them soak for no more than 10 minutes. Once complete, remove the scallops from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.
- As the scallops are soaking in the brine, begin to prepare the clarified butter. By clarifying butter, you are removing all the milk solids which helps prevent the butter from burning when you are searing the scallops at a high temperature. To begin, melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan over low heat. As the butter melts you will notice a white foam that begins to form on top of the liquid butter. Remove the foam (milk solids) into a separate bowl. The foaming should take no longer than 3-5 minutes. Once complete, pour the clarified butter into a bowl and let cool.
- Next up, scallops! Heat one tablespoon of clarified butter in a stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium/high heat. Be sure to place only a thin film in the pan as too much butter will boil the scallops versus searing them. Once you begin to see ripples in the butter, place the scallops into the hot pan in a clockwise pattern around the pan. This will help you know which scallops have been in the pan the longest.
- Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side depending on their size. Sprinkle salt and lemon on the scallops as they sear. When there is a deep golden color on the first side, flip the scallops and caramelize them on their other side. The scallops will be fully cooked when they feel slightly firm but tender when you press on their flesh. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel or wire rack to let the excess butter drip off.
- Spread a thin layer of the warm butternut squash purée on your dish. Carefully place the hot caramelized scallops on top of the purée. Add salt and pepper and finish by squeezing a lemon wedge over each scallop. Enjoy!