Pan-Seared Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
This recipe pairs bold, Spanish-inspired ingredients with pan-seared scallops to make a uniquely flavored dish that’s quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner.
How To Make Pan-Seared Scallops
Roasted red peppers and paprika are both common ingredients in Spanish cuisine, and they make a nice complement to seared sea scallops.
Here are some simple tips for making sure those scallops are cooked to perfection.
Shopping for Scallops
The first step to getting great results when cooking pan-seared scallops is to choose the right kind of scallops for the cooking method.
Look for good-sized sea scallops (under 20 per pound) and be sure that they are labeled as dry, dry pack, diver or day boat. If there’s a question, ask your fishmonger.
The term “dry pack” (and its alternates) means that the scallops have not been soaked in a brine-like solution that’s frequently used to prevent them from losing their natural moisture.
Soaked scallops will continue to give off liquid continually during cooking and you’ll never be able achieve the nicely caramelized outer crust and tender, sweet interior you’re going for when making pan-seared scallops.
If the scallops are not clearly marked as dry, check to see if they’re sitting in milky liquid and make note of the color. Scallops that have been soaked are generally whiter than their dry packed counterparts, which tend to be more of a creamy tan.
Tips For Perfectly Cooked Scallops
Take the scallops out of the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to cook them, arrange them in a single layer on a plate and blot gently with a paper towel.
For this dish we crust the scallops on both sides with a paprika-based seasoning blend, but no matter how you plan on flavoring your scallops, do it just before you’re ready to put the them in the pan.
Choose a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the scallops in a single layer with at least 1/2-inch between them, and set it on the stove over medium-high heat.
Add your fat (we recommend butter) and as soon as it starts to sizzle, use tongs to transfer the scallops to the pan, one at a time. We always add them in a clockwise pattern, starting at the 12-o’clock position. That way we know which scallops need to be turned first.
Depending on size and thickness, your scallops should need no more than 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side to cook. That amount of time should produce a golden crust on the outside and a creamy, slightly translucent center.
For best results, have all the other elements of your meal ready before you start cooking your scallops, work quickly, and plate individual servings to keep them piping hot.
- 1-1/4 lbs dry-pack sea scallops
- 3 teaspoons paprika (see notes)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Steamed white rice
- Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
- 1 (12-ounce) jar whole, roasted red peppers, drained (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1/2 clove)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- Remove the scallops from the refrigerator, arrange on a plate in a single layer and blot them gently with a paper towel. Set aside.
- Prepare the seasoning blend by combining the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and onion powder in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on a flat plate and set aside.
- Drain the roasted red peppers thoroughly and add them to the work bowl of a food processor along with the olive oil and sherry vinegar. Pulse until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the sauce to a serving dish and set aside.
- Working with one scallop at a time, lightly press the flat sides of each into the spice mixture and transfer to a dry plate.
- Add the butter to a frying pan large enough to hold the scallops in a single layer with some room between them, and place on the stove over medium-high heat.
- As soon as the butter begins to sizzle, swirl it to coat the pan and using tongs, add the scallops to the pan one at a time.
- Cook for 1-1/2 minutes, then start turning them and cook for an additional 1-1/2 to 2 minutes on the second side. Do not overcook.
- To serve, plate four servings of rice, spoon some sauce around it on the plate, top with scallops and garnish with parsley if desired.
About the paprika: We like to use a blend of 2 teaspoons sweet paprika to 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, but if you don't keep the smoked variety in your spice cabinet, no worries, the sweet variety works just fine by itself.
About the roasted red peppers: A 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers should contain the equivalent of 2 medium red bell peppers that have been cored, seeded, roasted and peeled.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 300Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 882mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 25g
Note: Nutrition information is estimated and may vary from your actual results.