Some of my recipes are inspired by the best meals I've ever eaten out at a restaurant. This is one of them. Pan seared sea scallops with basil brown butter is a revelation. This is a food memory from a loooong time ago. It was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. It was years before I tried to re-create it and it has been years since I last prepared it.... until now! It's delicious. It's indulgent. And if you love sea scallops, you will go crazy for this one. And if you love butter you will really go crazy for this one.
The Secret to the Best Pan Seared Sea Scallops: Don't Overcook Them (duh)
The easiest way to ruin pan seared scallops is to overcook them. Scallops do not need to cook for ten minutes. No, no. I run the gamut when it comes to cooking burgers and steaks. I enjoy a medium-rare burger and I also enjoy a well-done burger. Same with steak. Most people decide they want their meat cooked all the way through or with varying levels of blood red or pink. I go both ways. With scallops, in my opinion, you really will ruin them if you overcook them. They are done at about the three-minute mark. I cook them on med/high heat and make sure my pan is well heated before dropping them in.
Cook for two minutes on the first side to get that gorgeous sear. Then turn them and cook a minute or so more. That's it. Don't overthink it. They are not still raw. They will have cooked all the way through. Trust me on this.
What is Basil Brown Butter?
This is a butter sauce, but make no mistake about it: this is not melt butter, pour on pasta. There is a cooking process where you melt the butter in a pan and leave the heat around low to medium. The butter will start to foam which is what you want to see. Slowly, the butter will start to brown. As it browns there will be a delightful nutty aroma to it. As the butter is cooking, keep stirring it.
It will eventually fully brown with an intense looking foam. Once that happens, add the basil and let it fry a couple of minutes. This will infuse the butter with the basil flavor. The final touch for this one is adding some shaker Parmesan cheese and giving it one last stir. Now it's ready to be mixed with your pasta.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Basil Brown Butter by the Numbers
When you buy sea scallops it doesn't really make sense to buy them by the pound. Sea scallops are generally a bit pricey. A few years back, I would have a feast in the fall when prices would drop to $9.99/pound for sea scallops. I haven't seen that price in at least a year and a half. Also, when you plate scallops for guests you want to make sure everyone has the same amount, right? Buy as many scallops as you will serve per portion and a handful more for chef treats and a few extras for guests. I tend to cook portions of 4-6 for my website. For this recipe, it's for 6 so I needed 36 scallops for the portions, plus a handful extra.
What's the Difference Between Bay Scallops and Sea Scallops?
Next, let's address the pink polar bear in the room. Her name is Ursula, by the way, in case you were wondering. Bay scallops and sea scallops are not the same thing. They are two different types of scallops. Obviously, the sizes are different: bay scallops are small and more roundish and sea scallops are large with a more defined flat top and flat bottom. The flavors: bay scallops are a bit sweet whereas sea scallops are more savory and slightly saltier. I prefer seas scallops and find they sear much better than bay scallops too. So for pan seared scallops with basil brown butter, I want my go-to scallop which is the gorgeous, savory love-of-my-life: sea scallops.
Steps to Making Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Basil Brown Butter
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