Cooking School – Scallop Chips
Happy St. Paddy’s Day. The beautiful isle of Ireland deserves no less than a yummy take on one of its very fine seafood treasures — scallops.
This article is not about scalloped chips. You know what I mean: scallops baked in a cream sauce. I’m not talking about a dish similar to scalloped potatoes. Nor am I talking about a twist on shrimp chips. Those specialties of Chinese buffets are made by combining ground shrimp, tapioca flour and water. Good, but different. What I’m talking about is something that is sure to wow and impress. Very simple, yet stunning in appearance and very tasty. Scallops, as you no doubt know, come in almost perfect bite-sized rounds. With a sharp knife, slice each scallop into thin disks, then fry them up until the edges are nicely golden. Use them as garnish for a salad or as a side with a sandwich. The scallop chips are ever so slightly sweet, yet crispy.
The key to making great scallop chips is in the scallops. But, you already knew that, didn’t you? Look for hand caught specimens.They may be more expensive, but they’re definitely more environmentally-friendly, too. Most of the scallops you’ll find on the market today are caught by dredging. That’s when trawlers basically scrape the ocean floor in the hopes of scooping up enough scallops to keep us happy. However, in dredging for scallops, they also catch lots of other sea life in their nets. The extras (fish, oysters, plants …) are discarded when the fishermen sort through their haul. Scallops that have been caught by dredging also tend to be grittier than the hand-caught ones. The processing that occurs after they’ve been caught is necessarily longer, too. More cleaning time to eliminate the grit means that they might not have as long a shelf life once they do make it to market. A good fishmonger will know how the scallops he or she is selling have been harvested; so, make sure you ask.
A few years ago, there was a trend among fish markets to sell some scallops labelled “dry”. The idea was that most scallops are soaked in water solution containing preservatives before being packaged for shipping. These “wet” ones tend to soak up that water and then release it when you’re cooking them. That’s why it’s so hard to achieve that gorgeous caramelized look, unless you severely over cook them. “Dry” scallops have not been soaked in a preservative solution. They’re shucked and flash frozen on the boat. They don’t give off anywhere close to the amount of water as “wet” scallops when you’re cooking them. The result is perfectly cooked scallops that look awesome. One more significant difference is price. “Wet” scallops weigh more because of all the liquid they’ve absorbed. If they weigh more, then they cost more, too. “Dry” scallops should cost somewhat less. The scallop chips that I”m suggesting you try work best when using the “dry” variety. They will take almost no time at all to cook, and you really want them to brown nicely around the edges. Three words of advice: do your research. I once purchased scallops that were labelled “dry” only to have them release as much liquid as “wet” scallops during the cooking process. The real ones really do cook up better.
1 lb scallops
Oil, for frying
Rinse scallops well, then pat dry. Slice them crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add scallops careful not to over crowd the pan. Turn scallops over when one side is slightly golden brown. Remove from heat. Lay scallop chips over a green salad, or enjoy as is with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.