So for a very simple how to, there really are only four things to do...
1. Dry the scallops thoroughly, many experts call for "dry" scallops, meaning they haven't been soaked in a sodium solution before arriving at your fishmonger/grocery store. I get mine at the farmers market and I know they're really fresh, so I don't ask...perhaps I should anyway.
If they are not dry, there is a tendency for the scallops to release the liquid preventing a good sear.
Note: Even "dry" scallops need to be patted down with a paper towel before adding them to a hot pan.
2. Important: BEFORE searing the scallops....since it's such a quick process - about one minute per side, the trick is to have all the ingredients handy for the sauce (whatever you choose). Just remember that simple is best when it comes to dressing/sauce for scallops, so as not to overpower that heavenly, sweet richness of the scallops.
3. Sear the scallops in a hot pan so that the outsides get a lovely crisp, brown crust and the insides remains tender and creamy. This really only takes 1-2 minutes per side. More equals rubbery and dry - not what you want in a scallop.
But let me explain ...
- Place a nonstick pan over medium high heat for a minute or so...you should be able to feel the heat on your hand suspended about 1-2" over the pan.
- Add the fat - olive oil or oil and butter. The oil is hot when you add a drop of liquid and it sizzles; the oil and butter mix is hot when the butter stops foaming.
- Don’t crowd the pan — There should be enough room between the scallops so that they sizzle rather than steam to get a good crust. That means you might have to do them in batches, but worth it to get that dark crisp crust.
- They’re done when they feel barely firm to the touch, and when you cut into one, it should be faintly opalescent. Don’t overcook them or they’ll be dry and rubbery.
4. Transfer the seared scallops to a platter and quickly prepare the sauce in the same pan. Or you could just add a squeeze a little lemon juice, some freshly ground black pepper and perhaps your favorite chopped fresh herb (basil is mine).