Nantucket Bay Scallops with Shallots over Mashed Potatoes

A New England treasure, they are in season right now, at this shortest day of the year!

There’s a beautiful island 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast, Nantucket, home of the world renowned wild seasonal delicacy, the bay scallop. Have you ever been there? The protected, clean waters off this island nurture the world’s oldest sustainable bay scallop fisheries, still carefully harvested and hand culled and cleaned, rinsed, and packed. No preservatives, ever, no freezing either. They are sold fresh during their short New England harvest season that runs from November to March, weather dependent.

A flavor rivaled by none

Their sweet, unique flavor and succulent texture is unlike anything else. As scallops go, they are tiny, just the size of a thimble, and they require little prep except the removal of the little muscle, sometimes called a strap because that’s what it looks like. But the few minutes you will spend prepping these is well worth the time! 

There’s always a catch, so to speak

As with any special seafood, there’s a catch so to speak, they are pricey, and they are hard to find. A good seafood market in New England can usually get them in, and there are some mail order services that can deliver your scallops via FedEx if you’re willing to pay the price. My local fish monger will order them in for me, but he’s always afraid to tell me the price! I think of them as holiday food at Christmastime, so the splurge is worth it, and all fish and seafood has been pricey lately.

Alternatives, of course!

I recognize that these scallops are a regional item, but never fear! There’s always an alternative or I wouldn’t post the recipe. If you cannot find them, you can substitute any of the east coast bay scallops or those from Canadian, also wild but with not quite the same flavor. I’ve had some lovely bays from New Hampshire’s tiny coastline, as well as the beautiful waters of Cape Cod Bay. Or, you can use a wild sea scallop that you cut into quarters. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be delicious, just look for sea scallops that are “dry” and not sitting in preservatives.

Be warned 

If you find bay scallops that are a bargain, pass them by. I can tell you without a doubt they are probably from China and not worth a fraction of what you are paying. They are poorly farmed, often with questionable practices that have seen them banned from our market in the past. They are also pretty much inedible having been packed in a preservative solution, frozen, and transported around the globe. Always ask.

Holiday food

But the real thing is special, and I usually buy them for a seafood stew I make Christmas Eve, and I have at least one meal where they are the star of the show. They are rich; you don’t need a lot. With this recipe, a pound of the scallops will feed five or six people as long as they are not greedy! The mashed potatoes help, providing a divine base for the scallops. This time, I made the potatoes with a bit of roasted garlic, even better.

Keep It Simple Sam

You don’t want to do a lot to these scallops, or add too many things; simple is best, so it is always a fast but special meal. The promise of the return of the light is definitely something to celebrate in the north country. We had friends over for a slightly early Winter Solstice supper, and everyone was delighted. Here we did a quick sauté with some shallots, deglazed the pan with some white wine, and let everything get happy together.

Sunrise at Winter Solstice The light returns! The solstice arrives this afternoon at 4:48 p.m., and not a minute too soon. Sunrise this morning was at 7:23 a.m, and sunset will be at 4:14 p.m., giving us a stingy 8 hours and 51 minutes of possible daylight. But in the next few days, the light returns slowly, definitely a reason to celebrate. We’ll barely notice the lengthening days for a while, but it’s happening.

I’ll choose mashed potatoes please

You can serve this over rice or pasta, but this past weekend, they starred atop a fluffy bed of buttery garlic mashed potatoes, and the result was divine. I’m making these again next year at the winter solstice, too. You’re invited!

Nantucket Bay Scallops and Shallots over Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 lb. Nantucket Bay Scallops
  • Flour for dusting
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter or non-dairy butter
  • 2 or 3 large shallots, minced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • Another tablespoon or two of butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of thawed frozen peas
  • Mashed potatoes

Clean the scallops by removing the little muscle (often called straps) on the side. Pat them dry and dust them with flour. Season.

In a large, heavy skillet (not non-stick) heat over medium high and add the oil and butter. Once it is shimmering and the butter melted and no longer bubbling, add the shallots and sauté until they start to brown. This is quick work. Remove from the pan, add a bit more oil, and add the dusted scallops in a single layer, do this is two batches if need be. If you crowd the pan, they will steam and not color.

Cook for two minutes, without touching them, then turn if they are browned. Cook another two minutes, and sacrifice one for a cook’s test. It’s a hard job. If they are ready, remove to the shallot bowl, cover again to keep warm, and deglaze the pan with the wine. Don’t overcook these treasures.

Once all the glaze is scraped up, and the wine reduced by about half, add the extra butter, let it melt, and add the scallops and shallots back to the pan. Gently mix it all up, then toss in the peas.

Serve over the mashed potatoes, and call everyone to the table. 

It will probably get quiet. Really quiet.

A small Cape Cod beach a few years ago. We definitely had a great shell day, including lots of bay scallop shells!

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60 Comments Add yours

  1. One of my favorite shellfish and your recipe looks delicious.

    1. Sheree says:

      It looks and sounds fabulous

      1. Thank you Sheree!

    2. Thank you Jovina! Such a simple recipe, and the scallops really shine.

  2. Jenna says:

    Scallops are one of my very favorite meals, and I always appreciate your tips on buying them. They sound wonderful with your garlic mashed potatoes! I look forward to longer days! Merry Christmas Dorothy!

    1. Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice to you Jenna!

  3. TaMara says:

    My dad would love this recipe. Old New England guy that he is. <3

    1. Oh, I’m sure he would! It’s one of our favorites.

  4. CarolCooks2 says:

    My mouth is watering, Dorothy its such a shame that I can’t get anything close to those scallops here so not something I eat often at all…I’m so jealous as I love scallops x

    1. So sorry to tempt you with something hard to get!

  5. nancyc says:

    This sounds like yummy comfort food to enjoy over the holidays! Hope you are staying warm and cozy up there! 🙂

    1. We’re nice and snug, and we actually have some sunshine today which always brightens the mood.

  6. Ronit says:

    Love scallops. These look so succulent and tasty! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit! They were absolutely delicious!

  7. Dorothy, I have been to Nantucket, but I didn’t know about the scallops. It is such a beautiful place. This is such an informative post and an absolutely delicious looking recipe! Happy Winter Solstice and happy cooking my friend! — Carole

    1. Thank you Carole!
      Nantucket is really an exquisite place. My in-laws used to spend time there every autumn, that’s when they liked it the best.

      1. Looks great. Enjoy this period of the year. Best wishes for you and your family

      2. Have a wonderful holiday!

  8. Suzassippi says:

    I attempted to make scallops once. I am lacking the Dorothy gene…or it could be related to being no where near a sea coast. 😎

    1. You should try again Suz! The trick is really buying the right ones and then not overcooking them.

      1. Suzassippi says:

        Pretty sure there are no fresh ones that have not been frozen anywhere close. I think I got these in Memphis (hour & change away) but I can’t see them flying them in fresh from anywhere! Next time I am there, I will look, and ASK!

      2. It’s always good to flirt a little with the fish monger, or at least butter him/her up!

  9. Good thing I just ate lunch. Wow, this looks absolutely delicious. I sure do wish we lived a little closer because I’d figure out a way to pay for a few stops around dinner time. 🙂

    1. The door is always open my friend!
      Now, if you can just tell me how to keep my rosemary alive this winter…

  10. I love scallops and this recipe looks user friendly even for someone with my skills! Yum! Merry Christmas Dorothy! Hugs, C

    1. Thank you! This is a really easy and rewardig recipe.
      Merry Christmas Cheryl! May your week be filled with laughter and love, and some delicious food as well!

  11. Eha says:

    Across land and sea and in the opposite hemisphere we are pretty proud of our scallops also 🙂 ! Always sold on the shell . . . ! Love the simple recipe but would serve them with bread or rice . . . I guess we do think Australasian here !!!

    1. They are wonderful no matter what we serve with them. I also love them on pasta or rice.
      Happy solstice, from vastly different perspectives!

      1. Eha says:

        *laugh* Oh, I don’t know . . . no summer here so far and now our days are growing shorter ! i had to put the heater on this morning for an hour just to have coffee in bed !!!

      2. Here’s hoping that, shorter days or not, you get some warmth! I know how disappointing it is here to have a cold June!

  12. Carolyn Page says:

    Scallops are a favourite of mine, Dorothy. Oh how I wish I could visit that beautiful island for the best of the best. However, I’ve definitely enjoyed the visuals….. I, too, went really quiet.

    1. Ah, Thanks Carolyn! Sometimes, there are no words.

  13. Sherry M says:

    this sounds so delicious. yes i fear most scallops we buy here in Aus are imported! Have a great festive season.

    1. You too Sherry! A lovely holiday, beginning right now with the solstice!

  14. Sherry Mac says:

    my comment vanished! anyway just saying this sounds very tasty!

    1. Thank you Sherry! We really love this one.

  15. NativeNM says:

    I love the delicate flavor of scallops. I know you have the very best scallops to work with where you live and I’m sure it tastes oh so good!

    1. We are indeed quite fortunate, but there are lots of options elsewhere as well. Have a lovely holiday Jan!

  16. Joni says:

    It looks good – and I love your menu!

    1. Thanks Joni! It was a nice little gathering, with a little favorite something for everyone.

  17. Oh my! Send me some too 😋😋 Sounds amazingly delicious 😋😋

    1. They’re on the way, along with all my wishes for a warm and happy holiday season.

      1. Thank you Dorothy! Same to you! Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones and happy holidays!

  18. OMG!! Heavenly!!

    1. Thanks Nancy! They definitely were out of this world!

  19. Gail says:

    A buttery scallop, no doubt, will encourage a “taste test”. I hope I can stop at just one. 😜🍃 “Happy Winter Solstice”. ❄️❄️❄️

    1. Oh, no one can stop at just one Gail, you must be pulling my leg!
      The sun returns!

      1. Gail says:

        Right? The challenge is not eating more as a taste-tester. I always say, “Now that bite was delicious. I wonder if the others are as good. Better check, just to be sure.” 🤔🤣😋

      2. Yes, that’s a sound method.

  20. terrie gura says:

    I love that you have paired these sweet little scallops with mashed potatoes! Now, why haven’t I ever thought of something like that? I always just go straight to pasta and that’s one of the things I love about your blog. I hope the Nantucket bay scallops remain a bit elusive for sustainability sake. Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas! 🤗

    1. Thanks Terrie!
      They are tightly controlled, the waters carefully managed, so I think they will be around for some time.

  21. Chef Mimi says:

    Ohhhh yum. Now this is comfort food!

    1. Oh yes, I think I might list this as number one comfort!

  22. Christy B says:

    My dad would adore this recipe! He is all about the scallops as a treat meal. Happy Christmas to you and your family, dear Dorothy!

    1. We’re actually going to delay our family Christmas until next week, sick child and extreme weather up here. Disappointed, but it will be wonderful next week! We’ll just call it The Amazing Expando Christmas.

  23. You are killing me with all your delicious seafood recipes! I’ll take the entire bowl!

    1. I think this one is definitely in my top three favorite dishes!

  24. Nancy says:

    I need this now! Comfort with a capital C!

    1. Thank you! It is really one of my absolute favorites, and the mashed potatoes are a must.

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