I first made this a year ago, and I was so pleased with the results, I swore I’d make it again soon. Well, you know. Best laid plans and all.
And then a couple of nights ago, I remembered it and made it once more. I was so pleased again that I decided it had to be a part of the repertoire for Mutt & Chops.
This is light, and creamy, and velvety, and full of layers. And it is so easy! I regret waiting this long to make it. Just think, I could have been serving it for dinner guests this past year if I hadn’t lost track of this little gem.
Well, I’ve made up for it. We had it two nights ago, and then Sam and I had it for lunch today, right after finishing the photo shoot. We’ll call Sunday night’s a practice run. Which totally justifies having sea scallops twice in two days.
Lately I have been buying the very large bags of frozen sea scallops at Costco because they are very reasonably priced for the quality compared to other options. I’m on my third bag, and I have not had a bad scallop yet. I think they come in 2 1/2 pound bags. Anyway, I break them into smaller batches, and vacuum-seal them, and keep them in my chest freezer.
Then I have to, very sternly, talk myself out of defrosting them every time I open the freezer looking for a protein for dinner. I usually do pretty good, and the batches last me several weeks if not months.
This isn’t much, guys. And it is SO quick to make!
The cognac and the tarragon really love cream. It’s the secret of why this sauce is so amazing.
Peas. Let’s talk about peas. Steve and I love them. The boys, not so much. Sam actually despises them. When it comes to some food issues, I sometimes wonder if they did not switch that boy in the hospital at birth. Except he is the spitting image of my brother Mike growing up. Sigh… I guess he really is mine, although with some missing food genes.
Anyway…back to peas. I happen to think they give this sauce a fifth gear, adding a distinct separate layer of flavor. But Sam told me it takes the cream sauce from a 10 to 6 (see how much he dislikes them?). You be the judge. If you love peas, use them. If not, omit them.
And here’s a very important tip
Just as Tom Hanks said that “there is no crying in baseball”, there is no moisture in pan-searing!
I can’t tell you how many friends have said they get so frustrated trying to make sea scallops at home because they never look as beautifully caramelized as the ones in the restaurant. So they give up. But it is so simple!
The issue is that commercial fisheries often soak these in water before freezing, so you are buying a lot of water weight, and when the scallops defrost, you have moisture-laden scallops. Unless you buy “dry frozen” scallops. Whole Foods Market sometimes carries them, as I’m sure do other places. They are just a little harder to find.
I defrost these babies on several layers of paper towels in a plastic container. Then I flip them over once they are fully defrosted, and I always have to replace the original paper towels with new ones, as well as wipe the bottom of the container dry. That is how much excess moisture has been sabotaging our attempts at gorgeous searing. Problem solved!
Season one side only.
Melt half the required butter on low heat, then heat the skillet to medium or medium high.
Gently lay the scallops seasoned side down first, then immediately season the top side with salt and pepper as well.
Just a couple of minutes, guys. Gently lift a corner to check for sear marks and flip them over as soon as they look pretty. But don’t over-cook them. It’s a sin.
Flip them over and let the other side get pretty too.
Once the second side looks like this, transfer the scallops to a reserved plate.
In the same pan, add the onions and garlic. There should be enough butter left to sauté them without adding more.
Don’t add the tarragon yet because it could get burned.
Cook until they are tender and have picked up some of the caramelization from the scallops. Then add the tarragon. I like to cook the tarragon just a little before adding the cognac so it releases some of it’s wonderful flavor a little more fully.
Then add the peas (or not) and the cream. You want to keep the cream bubbling, scraping the sides back into the middle or you will lose a lot of the content and flavor to a filmy residue. You want to incorporate that back in.
Cook until reduced by about 1/3 and noticeably thicker. But not too thick. This is a sauce, not a gravy.
Stir in the last of the butter and stir to incorporate.
Turn off the flame and gently add the scallops back in. This will help keep them warm for serving as you finish up.
There will likely be some juices in the bottom of the reserved plate where the scallops sat. That’s what “sweated” off of them while they waited for the sauce to catch up. Pour that deliciousness back into the sauce and stir. It’s too good to waste and will make the sauce that much richer.
If you really care about presentation (it sure as heck does not affect the flavor), try not to get sauce on the top side of the scallops so that the sear is sharp and not watered down.
Serve it with your choice of side(s). Garnish with a little chopped parsley and serve.
Is it a sign of complete lack of control if I have this again in a couple of days? Probably, huh?
Well, darn. Self-control is such a pain sometimes!
Sea Scallops with Tarragon Cream
- 8-10 Sea Scallops
- 2 teaspoons diced onions
- 1 small garlic clove diced
- 1/4 teaspoon tarragon
- 1/4 cup cognac
- 1/4 cup peas optional
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon butter split into halves
- Cracked Pepper
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Sprinkle salt and freshly cracked black pepper on one side of the scallops.
- Melt 1/2 teaspoon of butter on low in large non-stick skillet, and spread evenly on bottom of pan.
- Heat to medium or medium high.
- Gently lay the scallops seasoned side down, leaving space so that they are not touching or too close to each other.
- Sprinkle salt and freshly cracked pepper on the top side of the cooking scallops.
- Cook on the first side until achieving a noticeable sear (about 2 minutes).
- Gently flip them over to the other seasoned side and cook about 2 minutes more.
- Remove to a plate.
- Add the garlic and onion to the pan used for the scallops and sauté until softened and golden brown from the butter, but not crispy.
- Stir in the tarragon.
- Add the cognac to deglaze the pan and cook just enough to release the alcohol.
- Add the cream and stir to mix all ingredients.
- Add the peas (optional).
- Cook until the mixture is bubbling.
- Reduce heat to medium or medium low.
- Stir frequently, scraping the sides back into the middle until sauce is reduced by about a third and noticeably thicker.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and melt into sauce, stirring to incorporate.
- Add the scallops back into the sauce, pouring back in any juices accumulated in the resting plate.
- Serve with your choice of sides, garnishing with some chopped parsley (optional).