Extreme Cuisine – Scallops/Clams

By / Food / June 4th, 2009 / 1

Whether or not you like to eat them, you’ve probably seen oysters on the half shell on one or two restaurant menus. But, when was the last time you saw scallops and clams offered that way? Not nearly as common as oysters, scallops and clams can be enjoyed raw, too.

Of the two, clams are usually sold intact in their shells; scallops usually aren’t. Unless you live by the sea or near a really good fish market, you will be hard pressed to find whole scallops. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? There are actually a couple of reasons why scallops are sold shelled. First, they’re made up of two types of meat — the white and firm abductor muscle and the red and soft coral or roe. North Americans tend to shy away from eating the coral, so most scallops are shucked at sea, corals removed, and frozen. Second, the scallop industry isn’t nearly as widespread as the oyster or clam industry. Selling scallops in their shells might make the cost of buying them prohibitive.

There are a few simple tips to keep in mind when you’re scouring the fish markets for clams and scallops.

If the shells are open, tap them to see if they close. If they don’t, they’re probably already dead. Don’t buy them. Look for scallops marked “dry-packed.” These don’t contain any chemical additives. Most scallops are injected with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) before they’re frozen. It’s a chemical that causes the scallops to absorb moisture. The point being that if they weigh more, they can command a higher price. Scallops loaded with moisture release a lot of water when they’re heated – a definite no-no if you’re after that nicely caramelized look. If your fish market doesn’t carry dry-packed scallops, ask them to bring them in or buy your fish from someone else.

There are probably an infinite number of ways of preparing clams and scallops. You’ll find that raw scallops and clams have a subtle sweet flavour. Garnish them with a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh chopped herbs or a few drops of your favourite hot sauce. Steam them, bake them or grill them. Just remember that they require a very short cooking time.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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