Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Scallops: A Rant

Can someone tell me what the deal is with scallops in this country? You go practically anywhere in the world and a scallop is this gorgeous little nubbin of white and red - yes, red coral nestled into a beautiful shell with other appurtenances. And you eat it all. And they have to be absolutely fresh, and unless I'm mistaken, like oysters alive when bought. When did the desecration of scallops begin in this country? Not only are they nude, but include the one arguably difficult to eat part - the little muscle that apparently opens and shuts them.

I stopped buying supermarket scallops long ago, because they float them in some nasty chemical broth to keep them white, which causes them to absorb water, which of course all oozes out once they're cooked. The only way to deal with these is to soak them in milk, and completely dry before cooking. But there goes the flavor too. In haste I have made the mistake of seasoning these - including salt which ought never to be done - and popping them in a hot pan. Dreadful. I've seen dry scallops for sale, but not in Stockton.

So last night a bag of frozen scallops appears on the counter - seriously, I didn't buy them. Why not? Frozen shrimp are usually better than defrosted sitting in the case at the supermarket. After defrosting, the scallops were sitting in a puddle of flegmatic ooze, which I was hoping wouldn't happen. But I dried them meticulously. Just a hint of pepper and tarragon. Seared in a pan of olive oil the hottest I could get it before inflagration. The sizzling splattered everywhere, but I did get a nice brown edge, damn it. And know what? In the end it was pretty boring. It tasted sort of like scallops, but not much else. No briney depth, no mystery of the sea in your mouth kind of frisson. No PASSION! That's what I want in a scallop.

So for the time being I'll wait till the next time I see them fresh. I think the last I had such a scallop was at the ASFS banquet in Victoria. Yes, lots of things went wrong, but the little pink Pacific scallops were incredible. A shell from one sits on a bookshelf in my office; they were that good.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Two words for ya, Ken: Dry Pack. Buy dry pack scallops and you'll be fine. No ooze, no chemicals. They are, of course, more expensive. As for the coral, you'll find it as Asian markets.

Ken Albala said...

OK, Where do you find them?? In Stockton, that is. Ken

emilyskitchen said...

Dry pack, day boat (actually fine, no chemicals) and Asian in-shell aside, BRAVO, bravo, bravo Ken! After working in Paris and daily shucking lovely Atlantic scallops cold from the seaweed they came in on the very day they arrived, I will always love the bright, firm coral and the sea shell. And the scent, like dining in a little palace in the ocean

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Dude: I live in Sacto, not Stock-town. No clue where to find the goods down there. Podesto's?