Seared scallops with red onion and pepper (and why you should be eating more scallops)
There has been a lot of bad news lately about the state of the New England fishery. From yesterday’s announcement that the North Atlantic shrimping season was being cancelled due to the threat of species’ collapse, to the ongoing threats and draconian cuts to groundfishing industry, which Rowan Jacobsen covers in this month’s issue of Yankee, it has been one bad news story after another.
But there is one bright spot in the fishery: the scallop trade. And this mini-boom is centered in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the groundfishing industry, once an engine of wealth creation, collapsed back in the 1980s, leaving many fishermen unemployed and without prospects. After years of careful management, the sea scallop population off the coast is thriving, a bit of good news that the Boston Globe chronicled this past Sunday.
So…let’s celebrate this good news with a delicious scallop feast. This recipe comes from my favorite fish store, Hatch’s, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Owner Rob McClellan gave it to me back in 2003, but he credits the market’s original owner, Cliff Hatch as having created it. It’s very simple: just sauteed onion, garlic, and green pepper served with seared scallops over pasta. The savory vegetables are a great foil for the sweet shellfish, and I think this is one of the best possible uses for the humble and oft-neglected green pepper. A little wine in the sauce makes it perfect.
Hatch’s Seared Scallops with Red Onion and Pepper
Total time: 45 minutes; hands-on time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 3/4 pound angel-hair or spaghettini pasta
- 1-1/4 to 1 3/4 pounds sea scallops
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons salted butter
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus extra for water
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (such as a mix of basil, parsley, and dill)
- Garnish: Lemon wedges or slices
In a large pot with salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
If using very thick scallops, slice in half crosswise.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red onion, green pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper, and chili flakes; cook until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove onion mixture from pan, leaving some of the butter and olive oil behind.
Sprinkle the uncooked scallops all over with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Turn heat up to medium-high and lay scallops in the pan in a single layer with space between them (depending on pan size, you may need to do this in two batches).
Without disturbing them, let scallops sear and caramelize, 4–6 minutes. They should have a nice brown crust when done.
Using tongs, turn each scallop and cook another 2–4 minutes, depending on thickness.
When done, scallops should be opaque throughout (cut to check). Remove from pan.
Pour wine into pan; while it sizzles, use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in fresh herbs and simmer just until wilted.
Return scallops and onion mixture to pan and add cooked pasta; toss to combine.
Garnish with lemon slices or wedges and serve.