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The Seared Scallop Craze


Lesley C
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On the Liverpool House thread we started discussing who started the seared scallop trend in Montreal. It's true. Those golden crusted babies are everywhere!

Alexthecook thinks it might be Le Club Chasse et Peche, especially in the "a l'unilateral" style. Without checking back in my old reviews, just off the top of my head, the first seared scallops I recall wowing me were at Auberge Hatley in 1998, seared scallops with grapefruit beurre blanc was the dish. I also had some incredible scallops at Delfino ages ago.

Any other fine scallop memories out there, or anyone willing to take a stab at who got this trend going so strong?

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Hey, get lost you guys. This is the Montreal board.

Kidding...

But seriously, I think a caveman was the first to sear a scallop. I'm just trying to understand how and when this dish became THE starter around here. Also, who right now is making the best.

Is it as popular world-wide? We're usually talking three diver scallops here, now often only seared on one side.

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Seared scallops must have been around for ages, my dad used to make them, they were just like seared foie steak, any old french resto would have done it... I am sure it was served at Citrus, les Halles, so on... but really, I can't imagine seared scallops being something new.

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Hey hey, for the record, I didn't say I thought CC&P invented the seared scallop! I was just replying (coyly, I have to admit) to what adrian3891 seemed to be claiming...!

For sure seared scallops have been here for a while. As to their introduction in Quebec, I would venture that they were in all those Bocuse and Pol Martin french cooking books from the late eighties and that every family with a gourmand behind the stove tried that exotic lookig recipe and it just stuck in our collective imaginaires...

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Large scallops have been part of north est fishing since the advent of home freezers, only the giant or auturier scallop is present enough to fish. The intro of Coquille St-Jacques must have been similar in times with oysters Rockefeller and probably a style that reflected the rococo-kitsh techniques of back. People had raw oysters before that, people must have had seared scallops before that. My dad seared them all the time, I would say he even seared them more than any restaurants, who put enough oil at the bottom of the pan that unilateral seared is more like unilateral fried. He used an old heavy duty cast iron pan.

I am sure old coastal fishermen had it all the time, then on to the cities as migration occured, my mom had family in Gaspe, it was normal to sear scallops.

Edited by identifiler (log)
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Of course the seared scallop has been around forever. I just seem to remember it becoming, as Lesley said, THE starter in Montreal shortly after CC&P opened. I could be wrong, but that dish really seemed to have an influence.

Large scallops have been part of north est fishing since the advent of home freezers, only the giant or auturier scallop is present enough to fish. The intro of Coquille St-Jacques must have been similar in times with oysters Rockefeller and probably a style that reflected the rococo-kitsh techniques of back. People had raw oysters before that, people must have had seared scallops before that. My dad seared them all the time, I would say he even seared them more than any restaurants, who put enough oil at the bottom of the pan that unilateral seared is more like unilateral fried. He used an old heavy duty cast iron pan.

I am sure old coastal fishermen had it all the time, then on to the cities as migration occured, my mom had family in Gaspe, it was normal to sear scallops.

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Of course the seared scallop has been around forever. I just seem to remember it becoming, as Lesley said, THE starter in Montreal shortly after CC&P opened. I could be wrong, but that dish really seemed to have an influence.

Large scallops have been part of north est fishing since the advent of home freezers, only the giant or auturier scallop is present enough to fish. The intro of Coquille St-Jacques must have been similar in times with oysters Rockefeller and probably a style that reflected the rococo-kitsh techniques of back. People had raw oysters before that, people must have had seared scallops before that. My dad seared them all the time, I would say he even seared them more than any restaurants, who put enough oil at the bottom of the pan that unilateral seared is more like unilateral fried. He used an old heavy duty cast iron pan.

I am sure old coastal fishermen had it all the time, then on to the cities as migration occured, my mom had family in Gaspe, it was normal to sear scallops.

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OK, yes, prepared that way at home, sure, I'll buy that.

But when I started reviewing restaurant 8 years ago I would see them every so often. Now seared scallops are on almost every appetizer menu in the city. It is a craze, second only to tartares -- and molten chocolate cakes!

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OK, yes, prepared that way at home, sure, I'll buy that.

But when I started reviewing restaurant 8 years ago I would see them every so often. Now seared scallops are on almost every appetizer menu in the city. It is a craze, second only to tartares -- and molten chocolate cakes!

A very popular appetizer in SF for the last few years is seared ahi tuna in many different guises. Has that also been the case in Montreal?

Besides the great taste, both dishes have the advantage that you can use many different flavors and styles with them.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I don't know where seared scallops started but the scallops at CCP are the best I've had on earth. I have a reservation at Liverpool House this weekend. Thanks again, Lesley, for your Paris recommendations.

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I would say the seared tuna trend is dying fast.

It has been succeeded by the seared scallop? :smile:

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Searing is an amazing quick win. I held a lunch this summer where the theme was sear. Amongst the meals were seared scallops, tuna, steak, vegetables and even seared watermelon and cake.

Everyone was really surprised and very excited about the dishes. Its something that's easy to wow people with. The importance is high quality stuff that can stand on its own as we can't marinade the things too much.

Although CCnP didn't invent it, they probably started the buzz. Minimal prep time and popular and relatively unseen in restos at the time (probably due to its simplicity), which resto owner wouldn't want that action?

Although fine dining is an art, you still have to get paid. Heck, even Michaelangelo painted ceilings.

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How far do you really think I would have let this go without me piping in? Really!

Although on topic, I would like to add an interesting bit bit on technique, and the practice of searing a scallop...... Have you ever tried to sear a scallop, only to get a wet pan, and nothing more than a steamed scallop. Did you curse your equipment and swear that the next morning you were going to turf that old crappy La Cornue stove and go to Monas and score a brand new commercial Viking range, just so you had the horse power to get a sear on that damned bivalve?

And....Then after plunking down your hard earned weekly wages, ~$12,000, and having that sucker installed you find you got the almost the same results?

Well perhaps the equipment was not as much at fault as the Scallop itself... Yup, the scallop. I have found that most fishmongers in Montreal do not know the difference between a 'wet' scallop and a 'dry' scallop. Perhaps this issue is specific to the folks who work the retail counter, but I have yet to find anyone who knows the difference. I am not talking about dry scallops as in the Chinese Compoy. I am referring to a scallop that has not been treated with the water retention agent Sodium tripolyphosphate....the very culprit responsible for so many failed attempts at searing a scallop.....

According to one of the many sources on the Internet, the difference between wet and dry is explained as .....

"To understand dry scallops, you need to know that it is common practice in the United States to produce "25% water-added" sea scallops by soaking them in water containing sodium tripolyphosphate, which makes the scallops retain water. Typically these cost less than the dry variety. To be considered dry, the moisture content of scallops needs to be less than 80%."

You see, the issue here is that when the more common wet variety hits that hot pan, the Sodium Tripolyphosphate starts returning that water you just paid for to the pan. and you get a pan full of milky liquid and a steamed scallop. The worst part is that you can't return the $12,000 stove...... You should have bought an induction cook top anyways

On the Liverpool House thread we started discussing who started the seared scallop trend in Montreal. It's true. Those golden crusted babies are everywhere!

Alexthecook thinks it might be Le Club Chasse et Peche, especially in the "a l'unilateral" style. Without checking back in my old reviews, just off the top of my head, the first seared scallops I recall wowing me were at Auberge Hatley in 1998, seared scallops with grapefruit beurre blanc was the dish. I also had some incredible scallops at Delfino ages ago.

Any other fine scallop memories out there, or anyone willing to take a stab at who got this trend going so strong?

Edited by fedelst (log)

Veni. Vidi. Voro.

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Why are seared scallops on every menu??

Readily available good scallops (rarely dry, but still).

Easy to cook, easy to sell.

No MEP, all you do is remove a little muscle. You know that it will go out right with a minute of coaching and a hot pan whoever is cooking.. adaptable to a myriad of recipes/ seasons, you know it's a winner, giving you a dependable fish/seafood option on the menu, and most importantly that it will sell, you won't be stuck making fish croquettes for a lunch or staff meal.

The unilateral thing - that's one of those 'anyone could have thought of that and haven't we always been doing that?' kind of things, but the fact is that once it was indeed deemed innovative but now has become blah. I remember doing it at L'Eau à la Bouche in 2000 or 2001, anyway before CCP, but like Auberge Hatley, it was certainly following a semi established trend in France.. I think cooks want to be doing other things today, but people love it..

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OK, now this thread is getting interesting...

I also have my limit of scallops. It seems three is the right number and five is too many. And I don't think they make a great main course because the first three are heavenly, and the ones that follow are merely filling. To me, scallops are for starters -- unless they are mixed with other seafood.

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On the Liverpool House thread we started discussing who started the seared scallop trend in Montreal. It's true. Those golden crusted babies are everywhere!

Alexthecook thinks it might be Le Club Chasse et Peche, especially in the "a l'unilateral" style. Without checking back in my old reviews, just off the top of my head, the first seared scallops I recall wowing me were at Auberge Hatley in 1998, seared scallops with grapefruit beurre blanc was the dish. I also had some incredible scallops at Delfino ages ago.

Any other fine scallop memories out there, or anyone willing to take a stab at who got this trend going so strong?

I don't think it's so much a trend as just being an easy to prepare, and very tasty dish. I've seen seared scallops in top restaurants here in Calgary (a culinary wasteland, not to mention redneck-infested) since I started my apprenticeship. The way I was taught was to heat up a non-stick pan (very hot, high heat!), put the scallops in the dry pan, then once the crust starts, you throw in a little piece of butter, it goes to noisette very quickly, and you baste the scallops in the butter, then turn them to cook the other side quickly, then you're done.

Anyhow, if you get top quality scallops, are a decent cook, you really can't mess it up. Serve with a beurre blanc sauce, some sauteed sea asparagus, and it's a great dish. Boring and easy, perhaps, but incredibly tasty.

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