The last twelve months have been so full of big happenings for me, it’s hard to believe it all fit into one year! Some events were terribly challenging: strings of trials that tested every ounce of my patience, peace, and perseverance. But these were offset by many things that were incredibly awesome and expansive. And in the end, all were lessons and experiences to help me grow for the year ahead.
There’s something about the end of the year that I find incredibly special. More so than even the first of January. For me, the last week of the year is a time to really reflect on everything in my life—to see where I thrived, and what parts of me, or the things important to me, might need extra attention or work. During this time, I contemplate and elaborate on all those crazy ideas that have been flitting in and out of my brain for the past twelve months, and I set realistic and attainable goals for the upcoming year. This final week of December is also a primary period for appreciation for me (even for all the “bad” parts of the year).
I love to acknowledge that thankfulness and appreciation by finishing the year with a simple, yet extraordinary, meal that really toasts the occasion.
This year, I’m going with scallops.
Scallops are one of those foods that I adore, but eat rarely. They seem a little too special for an everyday meal—at least the large sea scallops—so, I tend to save them for occasions that warrant such distinctive ingredients. And I appreciate them much more because they are such a rare treat.
Besides being pretty universally enjoyed, even by people who dislike other seafood, scallops have a ton going for them. For one, they are in season from October through March, which means the chances of finding beautiful, sweet, fresh specimens at this time of year are exceptionally good. Even if not, though, frozen scallops are a worthy substitute and defrost quickly.
Be sure to always choose “dry” scallops. “Wet” scallops have been soaked in a solution of phosphates to increase water weight. In addition to questionable nutrition and taste, they will never get that characteristic crunchy, golden-brown crust we see in photos.
Scallops are simple and incredibly quick to cook. They adapt well to many different cooking media, their delicate, sweet, briny flavor harmonizes with flavors from all over the world, and they can shine without much more than a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
They also pack a wallop of nutrition, like most food from the ocean, exceptionally high in vitamin B12 and iodine. A bonus for me, because even when I’m “indulging,” I still prefer to eat mindfully and nutritionally.
This recipe highlights the scallop’s beauty in an unadulterated, yet elegant, way. A handful of simple ingredients and a nod to another New Year’s Eve custom, champagne, seems like a flawless match, and really celebrates the occasion. The delicate sweetness of the scallop is beautifully enhanced by just a splash of bubbly.
The sauce uses a classic French technique called reduction, which concentrates flavor without adding thickeners. It’s one of the easiest sauce techniques and really lets the essence of the ingredients shine. It’s indulgent, silky, and rich with flavor.
This dish could be served on its own, but I like it with a little something to mop up all the tasty juices—a simple risotto, whipped potatoes, soft polenta, pasta, zucchini noodles, or, simply, a good crusty bread. A sophisticated, yet minimalist, salad with a small scattering of ingredients would be another perfect accompaniment for a meal worthy of one of the most special nights of the year.
Seared Sea Scallops in Bubbly Butter Sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
12-20 large sea scallops (about 4-6 oz. per person)
Salt and cracked pepper
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
½ cup dry champagne or white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Minced parsley, for garnish
- Prepare scallops by defrosting under running water, if frozen. Pat fresh or defrosted scallops dry with paper towel. The drier they are, the deeper the sear. Season scallops well with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large, heavy pan on the stovetop. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter until foaming. Place scallops in pan, being careful not to crowd too much (divide into two batches, if necessary) and leave to sear, without touching, for about 2-3 minutes, until a deep brown crust is achieved. Turn scallops over with tongs or a spatula and sear the other side. Cook until firm and just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes total. Transfer scallops to a plate and set aside.
- Melt remaining butter in the pan and sauté the shallot until lightly golden. Add champagne and bring to a boil, gently scraping up all the scallop bits left in the pan.
- Boil until reduced by about 75%, then add the cream. Return to a boil and reduce until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
- Return scallops to pan and heat through. Serve scallops with the side dishes of your choice, or bring the whole pan to the table with a loaf of bread and the remining bubbly.
Image from Briana Goodall.