Green with envy, I watch aspiring chefs on various cooking programmes working with scallops. I thought they were out of reach price-wise for our household, but was surprised to find local scallops on special at our Countdown Supermarket. A generous serving of scallops turned out to be cheaper than good cuts of beef or lamb. I made a simple dressing of garlic, fish sauce, a scraping of palm sugar, a little oil, lime juice and a splash of sambal oelek (minced chilli). It was light and refreshing.
A while ago our new neighbour introduced himself by knocking on the door with “excess scallops” (surely there is no such thing as an excess of scallops) that he had brought back from a dive in the Coromandel Peninsula. We cooked them the way he recommended – quickly seared in sizzling butter with some crushed garlic. Divine! I am impressed by Paul’s style, making friends with us in that way.
There was the special luncheon with old friends at Kermadec in Auckland’s Viaduct Quay area. All I can remember is about those perfectly cooked scallops is that six single unadorned scallops is not enough for lunch – especially if you are having a rare midday glass of wine as well. I was trying to live up to the sophistication of the venue – but I really was hungry!
Then there was the feast of scallops that we devoured on a launch in the Marlborough Sounds. The blokes dived for them, the women shelled them on the deck of the launch and Dusty cooked them quickly in red wine. At first, I was most uncertain about combining scallops and red wine. But – again – a delight. Perhaps it’s hard to go wrong with scallops if you cook them quickly enough, keep the ingredients simple, and share them with great friends.
How food fashions change. About 35 years ago we had access to some well-priced scallops and prided ourselves on cooking Coquille St Jacques – the scallops served in a wine and cream sauce, a recipe from a Robert Carrier cook book. It was a rather smart dish to be served at a cheap, second hand dining table in the kitchen of an Air Force married quarter.
Not long after that, while we were on holiday, we tried battered, deep fried scallops, hot, crispy and fresh, from a fish and chip shop in Nelson. A travesty, perhaps, deep frying scallops in batter, but holiday food does seem to have its own distinctive deliciousness.
Do you have some more suggestions for cooking scallops – just in case I can find another reasonably priced tub of scallops before the season ends? Or shall I stick with one of the recipes here?