Bon Appétit (May 2012)
When it comes to seafood, probably the single most-quoted line around our house comes from "Top Chef" way back in 2009. Cheftestant Fabio Viviani was criticizing one of his competitors, Jamie, for making scallops too frequently. As Fabio put it, "This is 'Top Chef.' It's not 'Top Scallops!'"
What's charming about it is Fabio's Mario-and-Luigi Italian accent: "Eez no tope scallope!"
(By the way, if you're wondering what the second most often-quoted line about seafood is in our house, it has to do with ordering a certain kind of fish "just for the halibut." Thanks, folks! We're here all week.)
Anyway, these scallops from Bon Appétit....
These Scallops with Spice Oil are meant to demonstrate the technique of frying your spices. Quickly toasting your spices in hot oil allows them to bloom, intensifying their flavor and taking off the "raw"-tasting edge (not unlike the method used in the Spice-Rubbed Steak we made recently).
The even better part of this scallop recipe is that frying those spices is the single hardest part of the recipe. Searing and cooking the scallops themselves takes all of about four minutes. And since you can make the spice oil up to a week in advance, this is a meal you could literally get on the table in a matter of minutes.
And the flavor! It really is awesome. We found this spice oil to be positively addictive. One of us even resorted to licking his plate. (We won't say which one, but his name rhymes with smack...). The spicy-hot oil pairs perfectly with the scallops' natural sweetness.
In short, we loved these. Bottom line? "Eez! Eet eez tope scallope!"
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 black peppercorns plus freshly ground for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
8 large or 12 medium sea scallops, side muscle removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups mixed cilantro and flat-leaf parsley with tender stems
Olive oil (for drizzling)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Grind first 4 ingredients and 1/2 tsp. salt to a fine powder in spice mill. Transfer to a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add oil. Cook until oil begins to simmer, 2–3 minutes. Scrape into a small bowl; stir in garlic and lemon zest. Let cool for 5 minutes, then stir in 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more juice, if desired. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm before using.
Heat grapeseed oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat until oil begins to smoke. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Sear until well browned, about 3 minutes. Turn; cook until just barely opaque in center, about 30 seconds longer.
Meanwhile, place herbs in a medium bowl and drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over; season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Divide scallops between 2 plates; spoon 1 Tbsp. spice oil over each plate (reserve remaining oil for another use). Garnish with salad.