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This Pan Seared Sea Scallop Salad is so quick and easy to create. It’s the perfect light seafood dinner for when you’re short on time, but not on style.
Rounding out my Feast of the Seven Fishes menu is this really easy and fast Pan Seared Sea Scallop Salad with a Mandarin Vinaigrette. It’s studded with dried cranberries, crunchy pistachios and Parmigiano Reggiano. After a helping of Lobster Mac + Cheese, you’ll want this light dish to balance things out.
Bay scallops are on the smaller end of the scallop spectrum and are harvested in eastern coastal waters such as…bays. 😉 They are tender, sweet, delicate in texture and cook quickly. You might use them in a quick sauté, in stews (perfect for this seafood stew), and gratins.
This recipe calls for the larger sea scallop — still sweet and tender, but not quite as delicate. These cook quickly, too, but can withstand searing, broiling and grilling.
There are several things to consider when purchasing sea scallops:
- Size — Like shrimp, scallops are typically measured by how many per pound. I used 10/20, which average 1.5” to 2” in diameter. The size will determine cooking time.
- Dry vs. Wet — wet-packed scallops have been packed in a brine or other additives that increases their weight. It’s harder to get a good sear on these. Dry-packed scallops are unadulterated (go for these!).
- Sustainability — wild-caught, farm-raised and ‘diver’ are considered the most sustainable methods. If they aren’t labeled as such, it’s possible they were harvested by dragging a metal net which also collects other sea life. ‘Diver’ scallops are hand-harvested and will likely be more expensive than wild-caught or farm-raised.
- Fresh vs. frozen — If you’re lucky enough to acquire scallops right out of the ocean for cooking the same day, awesome! Buy from someone you trust, and ask questions about the catch. If fresh isn’t available, frozen is just fine. Thaw your scallops in the refrigerator overnight. (I purchased wild-caught, dry-packed, frozen sea scallops from my local grocery.)
How to Pan Sear Scallops
I tried two methods of preparing the scallops for the pan: 1) seasoned with salt and pepper only, and 2) seasoned and dusted with flour. Both methods achieved a nice, crusty sear, but I preferred the flavor of the flour dusted scallops. Scallops don’t contain much fat (and, fat = flavor), so we’re bringing fat to the party in the pan. Dusting the scallops with flour added some tooth for the olive oil and butter to cling to.
As mentioned earlier, scallops cook quickly. You can’t walk away from these! Here are the steps to achieve a tender, yet caramelized scallop:
- Pat the scallops dry.
- Season them with salt and pepper.
- Dredge them through flour and shake off the excess.
- Melt butter with olive in a non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until it gets really hot (almost smoky).
- Carefully place the scallops in the pan, but don’t overcrowd (cook in batches if necessary) and cook for 1-1/2 minutes.
- Turn them over with tongs and cook an additional 1-1/2 minutes.
- Immediately remove them from the pan.
Cooked this way, your scallops may still be a little translucent in the center (I like it this way, but that’s me). If you’re buying quality seafood, this isn’t a problem. If you want them to be cooked through, cook them for 2 minutes per side, but really watch the heat of the pan. I would even suggest turning the heat down to medium after you flip them — the pan and fats will still be hot, but you reduce the risk of burning your scallops with the extra time.
Variations for Pan Seared Scallop Salad
I kept the seasonings uber-simple for this recipe, but feel free to add any of your favorite seasonings: cajun or creole, a little cayenne or paprika, cumin, lemon zest, etc.
For the vinaigrette, I was inspired by the idea of winter citrus fruits. We always have mandarins on hand, so I only needed to reach for the fruit basket. Because scallops have such a delicate sweetness, I thought it best not to introduce too much acidity and instead go with milder flavors. Experiment with what you like best and try other citrus fruits or vinegars, omit the honey, or add some herbs.
Feast of the Seven Fishes
If you’re playing catch-up, here’s my take on this Christmas Eve tradition:
- Crab + Goat Cheese Palmiers (1)
- Poplar Hill Seafood Stew with Ciabatta Toasts (2, 3, 4 + 5)
- Lobster Mac and Cheese (6)
- Pan Seared Scallop Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette (7)
There you have it! Seven fishes over four dishes. I dare say, though…any of these dishes would be amazing any time of the year. If you try these for your holiday celebrations, comment below or tag me on social media so I can give it a heart!
Pan Seared Scallop Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette
- 1 lb sea scallops wild caught
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- kosher salt + fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 mandarin orange juice of
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5 oz bag of mixed salad greens
- 4 tbsp dried cranberries
- 4 tbsp pistachios shelled
- Parmigiano Reggiano
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside.
- Thoroughly pat dry the scallops. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add flour to a shallow bowl or plate and lightly dredge the scallops. Shake off any excess so you're left with just a light dusting of flour.
- Heat olive oil and butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the fat is really hot, carefully add the scallops. Don't overcrowd the pan, and cook them in batches if necessary.
- Sauté on one side for 1-1/2 minutes. Using tongs, flip the scallop over and cook for an additional 1-1/2 minutes. Remove them to a plate.
- Divide salad greens, cranberries, and pistachios between four plates. Drizzle vinaigrette over each. Place scallops in the center of the salad and shave or grate some Parmigiano Reggiano all over. Enjoy!