A quick, traditional recipe for scallops from my Massachusetts childhood that highlights their richness and sweetness.
I’m from scallop country — southeastern Massachusetts. We say “scollup”, not “scahllup.” The capital of this country is New Bedford, about 35 miles south of my hometown. New Bedford is still a major commercial fishing port, known for its scallop fishery. Scallops are always on the menu when I go home.
“The fish you buy today, swam last night in Buzzards Bay.”
When I was a kid, I was entranced with that motto on the wall of McMenamy’s Seafood market in Brockton, MA. While my mother shopped, I’d watch the lobsters play in the tanks and looked at the huge fish lying on ice — how gross and cool. It wasn’t hard to imagine them swimming the night before. They looked frozen in motion. Who caught them and where? Did they get caught at night? Or this morning? Was it dark and scary out there in the ocean?
I still love going to Massachusetts fish markets. The selection and freshness of their fish and shellfish is so much better than what I can find nearby. The markets have that clean briny aroma of the ocean, not the low-tide smell of fish that’s seen better days.
But I’m stuck with my local supermarket fish counters, unless I want to drive 20 to 30 miles, so I make the best of it. You can’t go wrong with this scallop recipe from the Saveur website. Scallops don’t need much dressing up. Or much cooking. They’re sweet and rich, just a little butter will do. If you had seen my expression after my first bite, you’d make this tonight. It’s good. Damn good.
Baked Buzzards Bay Scallops
You’ll need a casserole and a broiler element in your oven.
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons butter, sliced into pieces
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1 pound bay scallops
- 16 Ritz crackers, crumbled
- 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
- Optional: lemon juice
Set an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400. Find a casserole just large enough to hold your scallops. Add the garlic, butter and wine to the dish and place it in the oven until the butter melts. I like to let the garlic sit in the butter for a while before adding the scallops.
Remove the dish from the oven and add the scallops. Toss the scallops gently until they’re evenly coated.
Sprinkle the crackers over the scallops, and then sprinkle the cheese. Bake until the scallops are hot and have turned opaque, about 10 minutes. Of course, it’s hard to tell when they’re opaque, when in doubt, grab one and take a taste. You don’t want to overcook them or they’ll be tough. Switch the oven to broil and cook until the cracker crumbs and cheese are lightly browned on top, it’ll take only a minute or two, so keep an eye on it. If you have a gas oven, it may not even take that long.
Get ready for swooning. Soooo good. I served the scallops with broccoli rabe – a bit too much of a bitter contrast to the sweet scallops. Next time I’ll select a different green vegetable, maybe asparagus. I also bought some cheese-filled tortellini because they were on sale. After cooking and draining them, I tossed them in a little olive oil, butter and black pepper.
Original recipe: Bea Conner’s Lightly Baked Scallops, Saveur