January is a great time for eating scallops as they are at their best between now and early February and, if you can get ones that are caught by diving rather than dredging the sea-bed so much the better.
To open them there are variations on how to do it, all you need to do is get a flat knife and at the hinge end just slide in your knife towards the hinge about half way and prod the muscle, this will entice the chap inside to open the shell and reveal themselves, allowing you to remove him with ease, then trim off the messy bits and you will be left with a plump, firm scallop with the added bonus of a stunning plate to serve him on, the shell. Now if like me you find opening the shell hard work there are loads of clips on Youtube that will give you a start and you will develop your own technique after a few goes, just be gentle with your knife as you don’t want shredded meat.
The key thing to remember when cooking scallops whether pan frying or in the oven is timing, if you overcook them they will become rubbery, they should be just firm and opaque when cooked.
Here’s a great dish from Prue to get you started and it will impress your guests with it’s look and incredible aroma of freshness.
Baked scallops with parsley pesto and chilli oil.
12 scallops in shells
½ tsp dried crushed chillies
6 tbsp groundnut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
Large handful flat leaf parsley, incl stalks
55g pine nuts
55g mild pecorino cheese, coarsely grated
150ml olive oil
salt and pepper
Lemon wedges to serve
Get your over nice and hot 220c
Make your chilli oil by heating the oil and chillies in a pot, once the chillies start to fizz remove , cool and sieve
Prepare your pesto by placing all the ingredients into a processor and mix to a fine paste, it soaks up lots of salt so taste as you go, let it for a sit for 10 mins and taste and season again, I find maybe a squeeze or two of lemon juice helps to bring it together, what an amazing smell.
Prepare your scallops removing them from the shell, cleaning them and the shells.
Place them back in the shells onto a roasting tin,(sea salt on the tin will stop them toppling over), add a tbsp of the pesto mix on top and place into your over on the middle shelf for 5 mins
When cooked they should be just firm to touch and opaque in the middle when cut into.
Serve straight away with a drizzle of your amazing chilli oil and a wedge of lemon on the side.