22 March 2010

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops and Spicy Chili Mayonnaise

Last week, I was cruising my fave foodblogs and found a sushi recipe for scallops with Thai mayonnaise and spicy dressing on this site. Now, I like sushi sometimes, but I'm not confident of my ability to get sushi-grade fishes from our rural markets in NH. I, therefore, order sushi in more urban settings and rely on my daughters, who are sushi fans, to take Silent Bob and I to the best places for an excellent sushi experience. But, I digress... I love scallops and this recipe of Triss's called out to me... so last night I tweeked it to make a similar, but simpler and different dish.

Here in New England, the North Atlantic sea scallop is the cadillac of shellfish. I have always favored them because their spawning grounds off the coast of New England have been a place that I consider as 'local' as I can get when it comes to seafood. I also know that the National Marine Fisheries Board has kept a close eye on the population and placed restrictions on harvest, when necessary. I'm intrigued by their life cycle and their place in the ecology of the sea also... if you're curious, read up here.   Topping it all, their smooth creamy texture and faintly salty flavor provide the perfect stage to play with so many other complementary flavors ... crispy beer batter for deep-frying ... cheesy, mushroom-y sauce for Coquilles St Jacques ... hot peppery coating for pan-searing ... lemony wine sauce for Pasta Primavera ... stop me, I could go on. This week I picked up beautiful scallops and got to work on a favorite take ... very simple, very spicy, and very tasty... but with this chili mayonnaise topping sauce.

So... a simple dinner for two... expand the recipe as necessary for your friends or family. I allow five scallops per serving because these scallops are large - about an inch and a half in diameter and an inch thick. If you wanted to make these as a 'starter', you could go with three per serving and add a small bed of Asian spicy pickled cucumbers or cabbage salad for some complementary crunch.
The mayonnaise is made by simply doing a three to one ratio of mayo to hot Vietnamese chili sauce. I used three rounded teaspoons of mayo and one rounded teaspoon of chili sauce, mixed to make a creamy pink topping.

I chopped perfect scallions into small rings and used them to add a nice onion-y crunch and some color.

I washed and dried the scallops, placed them on a plate and sprinkled a spicy ground pepper steak rub to coat them on both sides.

I made our salad and got everything ready for dinner before even thinking about cooking the scallops ... that goes fast, so you want everything else ready.

Five minutes before we wanted to eat, I heated a non-stick fry pan over high heat. When it was smoking, I added about two tablespoons of hot spicy olive oil ( I made my own and you can access the recipe here on the blog or buy red pepper infused oils in your supermarket.) and a large pat of butter and swirled it quickly above the heat to melt the butter.  I placed the scallops largest to smallest into the pan and left them to sear for 2 minutes. Then, using tongs, I gently turned them to keep the blackened crust intact and seared them on their other side ... another minute to two minutes.

Working quickly, I plated them (I have these really cool scallop shells that I have cleaned and use for serving dishes), sprinkled them with scallions, topped each with a dollop of the spicy chili mayo, and served them while they were really hot from the pan. Simple, fast, and so tasty... enjoy!

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