When they are in season, Nantucket Bay Scallops are a treasure from our New England waters.
If you are lucky enough to travel to Nantucket Island, Mass., from November to March, plan to dine at one of the fabulous seafood restaurants and look for their bay scallop dishes. You won’t be disappointed.
The best in the world
I look forward to the season of our local New England bay scallops, particularly Cape Cod or Nantuckets, because they are the best in the world, and I’m not saying that just because I’m a New Englander! They are in season November through March, but every year is different depending on how the winter and the supply are going. They are sweet and tender, melt-in-your-mouth delicious with full flavor that is unforgettable. The cold, waters around Nantucket have been protected since the 1800s, and there is a great variation in flavor depending on where they are harvested, but they are all exquisite!
You won’t find these in the fish counter at the supermarket, and unless you’re on the island, you will need to pay a visit to your local fish market in season, or order them online –– there are quite a few good sources that will get them to you overnight, well-packed in ice. In fact, if you find bay scallops at the grocery store, I’ll guarantee they are from China, so check. Foreign scallops will also be smaller in size than a true New England bay.
In a pinch, you can freeze them for a month or so, but they are best enjoyed fresh when in season and left to memory the rest of the year.
As anything so exquisite is apt to be, they are pricy, yes, but what a treat they are. We usually try to find them for Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, or a special brunch with friends during the season.
A reasonable substitution
Alas, if you cannot find New England bay scallops, use natural “dry” wild sea scallops that have not been soaked in preservatives. Ask, and use your nose. A dry scallop will have a lovely aroma of the sea, it will smell exactly how scallops taste. A preserved scallop will have no aroma or flavor because it gets lost in the watery, preservative solution, and they are not worth any price! For this recipe, just cut the larger natural sea scallops into fourths, and please avoid anything imported.*
The incredible omelet
To stretch these gems, put them in an omelet! Of course, use the best eggs you can find. Organic from a local farm is best; they are fresher, tastier, and most likely been raised without cruelty. Know your farmer if you can!
You can fill an omelet with anything you love from fresh creations to leftover casseroles! One of our favorite egg dishes is a simple omelet featuring exquisite bay scallops from local waters. And even those watching their cholesterol can enjoy by using just the egg whites, which is how I made them this year because of our family’s need to cut back on saturated fat. I added a bit of hot sauce to lend the eggs a slightly yellow color so the visual matched the flavor.
The friends that never meet in person
Since fresh peas and Nantuckets will never be in season at the same time, I’m using frozen local peas for this dish. Frozen peas are a miracle to me!
Watch your heat when cooking these, your pan should be hot, but not smoking. Personally, I do not like much color on an omelet, and too much heat will dry them out and toughen! I like them soft and tender so that the egg flavor can shine through and not the taste of scorch, but if you prefer a browned omelet, make it your way.
These are the ingredients you will need per omelet, expand accordingly. Although I make all filling ingredients in one batch, I mix up each omelet separately.
Omelet with Nantucket Bay Scallops and Peas
For each omelet:
Thaw your peas and chop your shallots. Pat the scallops dry, and remove any large side muscles. Lightly dust with flour. You can stuff as many scallops as you want in the omelet, or be a little frugal! A pound of scallops can easily make six generous omelets.
- 2 large eggs or 3 egg whites per serving
- 2 tsp. unsalted butter or plant butter
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/4 lb., about 12-15 fat domestic bay, whole, or 3 large dry sea scallops, quartered
- 1/2 minced shallot
- 1/2 clove garlic, grated
- 1 tbsp. dry sherry or dry white wine
- 1/4 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
- 2 tbsp. coconut milk, light, or light cream
- 1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Over medium high, heat the olive oil and butter until foaming and add the scallops in a single layer. Add scallops to the pan and cook for about two minutes, not touching them, you’ll want them to brown and form a crust. Turn and cook another minute. This doesn’t take long; the scallops should remain slightly opaque in the center. Err on the side of under; they will continue to cook in this dish, and you absolutely don’t want to go over. The poor cook will just have to test one to ensure perfect timing! Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.
In the same pan, add a bit more oil and sauté the shallot just until tender, then add the garlic and deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the paprika and simmer until the wine has reduced to the point where you can leave a trail across the pan with your wooden spoon, there won’t be much left. Add the coconut milk and simmer for a minute or two, then toss in the peas and the scallops, taste for seasoning. Remove from heat and keep warm while you make the omelets.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs, a little salt and pepper and mix well. Heat an 8-inch, non-stick omelet pan over medium and add some butter. It should sizzle, and then quiet. Once quiet, pour in the eggs and let set for about 10 seconds or so. Gently move and lift eggs from outer edges of the pan, letting the egg run under. Use a light hand with this. I keep the heat around medium, but lift the eggs off the burner if I feel they are cooking too fast, and I keep the pan moving.
This is a quick process. When eggs are nearly cooked but still soft on the top, remove from burner, add the scallop mixture down the middle of the omelet, reserving a bit of the sauce and a few scallops for serving. Gently fold one side of the omelet over the center (the side opposite the side you will be slipping onto the plate).
To serve, run a spatula around the edge of the omelet, bring to the plate and gently slide about halfway off. Then flip the bulk of the omelet over the first. Top with the reserved sauce, a little more pepper, and fresh parsley.
Serve this egg dish with chopped tomatoes and a simple salad of parsley and arugula, dressed sparingly with a bit of sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt.
If you don’t eat seafood or are looking for a vegetarian variation, you can make this with mushrooms and peas. It will still be delicious. You can also make this with crab, or any other shellfish, or a mix.
Always ask your seafood’s country of origin. Don’t even think about using bay scallops raised in China, the Philippines, etc.; these farm-raised pencil erasers have no flavor and absolutely no resemblance to the original, and, more importantly, have had chronic problems in the past with health and safety concerns serious enough to be banned in many countries. Beware, they are often “processed” in countries other than where they originate, so to be on the safe side, stick with US certified, or certified in whatever country you reside.
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