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a break

Recipe: pan-seared scallops

Ahhh, after all of the horrible heat that was forecast for the past several days, we have been enjoying some afternoon cool offs with dark clouds, gorgeous lightning, and even some much needed rain. The office window is open and the cool (60°F) air is dribbling in across my arms as I type. Oh baby! I love the smell of the mountain forests right after a rain. I think if I lived down on the flats, I would have lost it by now.

Because of the hot weather, we got up early yesterday morning to do a little hiking and shooting. Sadly, the Parry’s primroses are on their way out, but I see some king’s crown starting to bloom streamside. In another month, the wildflower display will be but a memory here. Best to enjoy them while we can.


bluebells, heartleaf bittercress, parry’s primrose

catching some stream action



The other day, I found myself in front of the Whole Foods seafood counter once again. That is trouble in a nutshell, let me tell you. “Okay,” I told myself, “don’t get all crazy.” No, no crazies. I decided to go easy on the wallet and ask for four scallops. Four luscious, supple, giant scallops. Oh yes… oh yes…

beautiful scallops make me cry tears of joy



The first time I purchased scallops at the Whole Foods in Boulder, I asked if they were dry scallops. Fish dude looked at me funny and said he wasn’t familiar with that term. So I asked if they were water-injected and he emphatically replied, “No ma’am.” I was relieved to hear that, but what was with the Ma’am thing? Anyway, on the East Coast I had seen two types of scallops: dry scallops and “scallops”. I put that in quotes because the little tag will read “scallops”, but the words underneath “scallops” written in 3 point font state that these beauties have been injected. Injected with sodium tripolyphosphate for the sole purpose of making those scallops SUCK. No really, it’s to prolong shelf life and maintain plumpness, but at the expense of taste, quality, and everything good known to Man.

simplicity in seasoning – just salt and pepper, kids



Back in the day, I made the mistake of purchasing these cheaper cousins and trying to pan-sear them. No dice. They oozed out their nasty STP juices (okay, I guess it’s mostly just water) and I wound up with braised rubbery scallops that tasted like ass. I learned my lesson and now hopefully you have too.

One of Jeremy’s favorite dishes is pan-seared scallops. He couldn’t resist ordering them whenever they popped up on a menu. As a cook, I couldn’t help but try to reproduce this dish at home. I get my jollies creating restaurant-style meals at home for a fraction of the restaurant price!

So what is the first thing to do? Well?? Get dry scallops. Haven’t you been paying attention?

I will pat the scallops dry of moisture first and then season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Next, get out your best pan because we want it to be HOT. I use my trusted 4-qt All-Clad frying pan. Add a little olive oil, set the flame on gi-normous. When the oil is hot, set the scallops into the pan.


pan-sear the right way: with dry scallops



They cook fast and even when you remove them from the pan they will continue to cook. If you overcook the scallops, they will become rubbery, you will have wasted your money, and I will personally show up in your kitchen and thwack your hands with a chopstick. So DO NOT OVERCOOK THE PRECIOUS SCALLOPS.



For these scallops (about 2 oz. each) I let them cook about 2 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another minute plus on the second side. I remove them quickly to a plate while I address the sauce.

sauce? you say



That sticky mess of burnt scallop bits in the pan would be unhappiness for the dishwasher (aka Jeremy), but a dream come true for me. It’s fond and it makes some wonderful pan sauce because it is packed full of flavor. With the heat reduced to high instead of gi-normous, I’ll slap in a pat of butter and stir it around as it melts.

don’t be adding crap wine!



When the butter is completely melted, it’s time to pour in some liquid. It could be broth, water(?), or wine. We were having a nice French Chardonnay that night, so I nipped a bit from the bottle. [Note: When I pan-sear steaks I like to use port for reduction.] The liquid will bubble and steam, but you need to get a whisk or spoon in there to stir it around and scrape at that fond sticking to the pan. The fond softens up and dissolves into the liquid, which makes cleaning the pan much easier and flavors that lovely sauce. As it reduces to the right consistency, I remove it from the heat and serve it with the scallops, pronto.

pan-seared happiness



Pan-seared Scallops
[print recipe]

4 large dry scallops
salt
pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup white wine

Pat the scallops dry with towel or paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the scallops (both sides). Heat olive oil in a frying pan (don’t use non-stick) over high heat. When oil is hot, place the scallops in the pan with at least one or two inches between them (so they don’t crowd and steam one another). After two minutes, the base should be browned nicely. Flip the scallops and cook for another minute or until base is browned. Remove from heat and set on serving dish(es). While still on high heat, drop a pat of butter into the pan. Move the pat around the pan until melted completely. Pour in the wine and use a whisk or spoon to scrape the fond from the pan and stir it into the liquid. Leave the heat on high and let the sauce boil until it reduces to desired consistency. Immediately remove from heat and serve with scallops.

97 nibbles at “a break”

  1. Courtney says:

    Those look fabulous!!

  2. megan says:

    I’ve never cooked scallops and I’m not sure why that is. You made it look so easy and tasty!

  3. Tony says:

    I don’t know if you watch top chef, but I wish Spike would have read this post before trying to sear frozen scallops, haha. These look phenomenal, Jen!

  4. Manggy says:

    Jeremy got it right! (Hee hee.) Scallops are one of my favorite foods– I also order it each time I see it on a menu! But it’s gotta have some sort of crust on it. Somehow I don’t believe you guys like scallops that much. Two pieces each?! (Okay, I’m kidding; obviously you didn’t want to overspend… Plus I’m a pig, apparently)

    I am not sure if the scallops I find here routinely are injected or not. Oh, who am I kidding– they are all frozen. I really have to make my way to a dedicated, stinky seafood market (it’s not far, just– not in an area I particularly like). I wish I had a CSI kit or something to test the scallops with.

  5. Mollie says:

    Beautiful, simple and perfect. Yum!

  6. tom says:

    The last (and first) time I made scallops at home, despite warnings not to, I still managed to overcook them. Worse, it made my entire apartment smell like a dirty fishing boat for about a week. I’d like to give them a try again – do you have any ideas on how to manage the smells?

  7. Mrs Ergul says:

    So far, the only time I have cooked scallops was new year’s eve last year! They are not really economical so I keep them for only special occasions. I love all the photos here, especially the pan-seared scallops! They make me drool!

  8. peabody says:

    Yum, yum. When I live in AZ those evil scallops were about the only thing they sold. It sucked and it was why I never made them at home.

  9. Cynthia says:

    Jen, you know all that gorgeous hot food you photograph? Well, I want to know how long it takes for you to photograph the plated pictures before you eat it? Is it still warm, or are you so good at food photography that you can snap it in a minute and still eat it before it gets cold? I have these pictures in my mind of your husband sitting at the table salivating, knife and fork in hand with a napkin in his collar wondering when the hell he can eat.

  10. Susan at StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    They look perfect! Pan-seared scallops (dry, of course) are one of my favorites. Next time, get 6 and give me a call! ;)

  11. Rosa says:

    Everything looks so wonderful! Your posts always make me dream! Your photography never fails to be stunning!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  12. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    Wow, they look stunning. I’ll admit I never have had a scallop in my life, but after reading this I want one NOW lol. I’m amazed that you managed to get such a good photo of them searing when they have to be in and out so quickly.

    By the way, I always use dry Marsala for deglazing after cooking steak – uh-maaazing :)

  13. fanny says:

    Jen I’ve never seen something this beautiful. Bothe the pictures and the food.

    xx fanny

  14. Ellie @ Kitchen Wench says:

    Those pan seared scallops are absolutely gorgeous and making my mouth water!

  15. Naama says:

    The pictures looks just amazing, I especially love the second picture. I am so envy that you live in a place that has such a great variety of lakes, rivers. flowers and and simply nauture. I wish that in the place that I live in, they woukd have more respect to a nature.
    Anyway, the scallops looks reaaly good, I`m sure that they taste as good as they look :)

  16. Linda says:

    Wow, thank you so much for posting such valuable information. I did not know this and am very happy to have been educated. Your recipe looks amazing and now I can’t wait to get to Wholefoods myself to get some scallops and cook them as you did. I can just about taste them now.

  17. Amy says:

    That literally looks like one of the very best things anyone could ever eat, EVER. I’ve found much to like about Ithaca’s markets, but the one thing I sorely miss from Boston is the Whole Foods seafood counter…there’s just nothing comparable here as far as I know. I can almost taste how plump and sweet and crusty and succulent those scallops are….well done!!! :)

  18. Susy says:

    WOW, those flowers are gorgeous. Mother nature does it best doesn’t she. The scallops are also gorgeous, I’ll have to buy some soon!

  19. Dana says:

    I also cannot resist these on restaurant menus – i’ll have to try them at home!

  20. Debbie Green says:

    Beautiful pictures of the stream. I love the color of the flowers. Great looking scallops. It is hard to find good scallops….

  21. Kevin says:

    Those scallops look amazing!

  22. cindy says:

    when you mentioned slapping hands with chopsticks i thought of my mom doing just that to me whenever i picked food from the pan. so, funny.

    and beautiful scallops!

  23. White On Rice Couple says:

    Gosh, the primroses might be on their way out, but they sure are still WAY more lush than anything I can get down here. The flowing water pics really show what a FINE photographer you are! They are truly stunning! If my mom saw your pics she would see lots of good luck and money flowing and want to buy the prints. Flowing water is good fung shuei to her and she just lurves water pics.

    The scallops with the butter/chardonnay reduction taste marvelous! I can really taste them through the picture. One question, did Jeremy get to lick the plate? :)

  24. joanne at frutto della passione says:

    Yum and by the way, yum!
    Boy oh boy do those scallops look wonderful. Tempted to try them myself but it is still way to hot and icky for me to stand in front of a stove!

  25. jenyu says:

    Courtney – thanks!

    Megan – delish! It’s not so bad as long as you don’t overcook them :)

    Tony – ha ha, I don’t have a TV and have never seen the show, but I would have told him to give it up ;)

    Mark – I personally think well-cooked scallops are heavenly (and raw too, I love my sushi…). Well, I made the scallops the previous week and we had 4 each… along with shrimp! I don’t think we could move after that :) Just ask the fish monger what the condition of the scallops are! When you smell them, they should smell like sea water, not fishy at all.

    Mollie – thank you!

    Tom – As I told Mark above, fresh scallops shouldn’t smell like fish AT ALL. If they do, you shouldn’t buy them because they aren’t fresh. Truly fresh scallops will smell like sea water. But when you cook them, there will be smells. I turn the exhaust fan to High and open a window in the kitchen (yes, even in the dead of winter).

    Mrs. E – yeah, they are pricey. We don’t indulge too often :)

    Peabody – I bet you guys have awesome scallops now!

    Cynthia – Oh, it takes seconds to photograph. My tripod lives in the same room as the kitchen table (open floor plan – it’s in the dining area where I also do most of my food prep). If the subject or light is particularly difficult, it could take a couple of minutes, but that’s all. Food is by far the easiest subject I photograph :) And dear Jeremy doesn’t sit at the table waiting to dig in – he will sometimes hold a reflector or flash for me to get the shot done faster!

    Susan – you betchya, hon!!

    Rosa – thanks, sweetie!

    Laura – ooooh, how could you not have?!?! :) Must go try one. You live in New Zealand!!! Marsala? That sounds great… will keep it mind, thanks!

    Fanny – oh you! You take gorgeous pics all the time ;) Stop making me blush!! :)

    Ellie – thanks!

    Naama – thank you :)

    Linda – yummm! I hope you enjoy your scallops when you make them.

    Amy – Hmmmm, I think when I lived in Ithaca, I would get dry scallops from Wegmans. They weren’t bad (perhaps the quality has declined? I dunno). But I didn’t procure the good fry pan until I moved away (how could I, we were grad students = pooooooor). Ask Carrie, she might know! :)

    Susy – yes! Mother Nature rocks the hizouse! :) Thanks.

    Dana – hope it works out for you at home. They are sooo good (and you can eat more at home too!)

    Debbie – thanks and yes, it IS hard to find good scallops (you pay through the nose too *sigh*)

    Kevin – thank you, hon!

    Cindy – ha ha! Is your mom Chinese? ;)

    WoRC – hee hee, maybe we should get her one? Jeremy did indeed lick the plate ;)

    Joanne – I hear ya. When it cools down, don’t forget to give it a try!

  26. Nate says:

    Your photographs are simply beautiful. I am in awe.

  27. eula says:

    oh goodness, those look delicious.

  28. megan says:

    I found some beautiful scallops and came back for the directions. I will not onercook my scallops so you can just put those chopsticks down. No thwacking my hand! and no crap wine! I got it!

  29. Jaden, Steamy Kitchen says:

    omg. scallops. that last photo. want. need. hungry.

  30. jenyu says:

    Nate – thank you!

    Eula – they were quite good, I must admit :)

    Megan – I trust you did it right, no need to thwack, hee hee.

    Jaden – are you kidding me? Babe, have you had a look at your own blog?? :) xxoo

  31. Christine says:

    Made these scallops last night for our anniversary–they were wonderful! Thanks for the great tips. Oh, but I did manage to set off the smoke detector twice during the cooking process….

  32. jenyu says:

    Christine – yup, that will happen! I usually get the exhaust fan running full bore and open the kitchen window. But I’m so glad you enjoyed your scallops!

  33. bookaholic_au says:

    Yum. Scallops are awesome. My favourite is a dressing of ginger, lime, lemongrass, sesame oil, fish sauce and brown sugar. Soak for a few hours, simmer for an hour, strain and reserve liquid. Pan seared scallops tossed through pasta with the sauce and double-podded broad-beans. I’ve only done this with decent but not gourmet/fresh pasta, and have a yearning to try it with fresh liguini.

  34. jenyu says:

    BA – I generally never cook scallops for more than a few minutes or else they turn to rubber on me.

  35. Jen says:

    I went to market and bought a kilo of fresh fresh fresh scallops from a man in a little fish booth. They didn’t have any scallops, but upon asking, he produced a box he was holding for someone who didn’t seem to be showing up. The scallops are perfect, impeccably cleaned and fresh as can be. I had never cooked scallops before and they seared perfectly, just some salt and pepper added for seasoning. I used your ‘clean the pan by making a sauce’ method to cook some leeks to put under the scallops. The dish is just too pretty. Thanks for the guidance :)

  36. jenyu says:

    Jen – oooh, lucky YOU! How awesome. Really glad you got great scallops and cooked them up to perfection. Yummmmm.

  37. Robert Jantzen says:

    I clearly see why in fall 2009 a google search on the keywords “dry scallop recipe” returns this as the first hit. The food porn photos alone make the visit worthwhile, but indeed this is a terrific and easy way to do scallops with a “wow” result. We gave it a try but since we had picked up a new Italian product “truffle flavored balsamic glaze” at Castroni’s in Rome a couple months earlier, we drizzled that over the plated scallops as well at the end (the photos show instead scattered parsley for garnish, not mentioned in the recipe). Just the right finishing touch to kick it up a knotch BAM! (sorry for the emirilism). Thanks for sharing this with us.

  38. bee says:

    dear jen,
    i’ve never cooked scallops though i used to love eating them in my carnivorous days. i have a dinner party tomorrow and i will make these if i get “dry” scallops. i usually never experiment while serving guests, but this i will try ‘cos they look so gorgeous. if i don’t get “dry” scallops, i’ll try it with cod or shrimp.

  39. jenyu says:

    Bee – oh hon, I hope it worked for ya! :)

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  45. Misty says:

    I HATE when my food tastes like ass!!! haha! These look just delightful though. And in the words of my husband, you had me at butter.

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  47. Paul says:

    Im lucky enough to live on the north east coast of England, so we get some great fresh King scallops.
    I just followed your recipe and 2 minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other cooked them perfectly.

    I skipped the sauce because I managed to burn it, maybe my non-stick pan was a bad idea for this?

    In the end I just drizzled a bit of lemon juice over them, and they were awesome, so thanks for sharing :)

  48. stephanie says:

    yum. just found this recipe and your blog on pinterest. so glad i did!

  49. Alibut says:

    If you are lucky enough to live in New England, Nantucket Bay scollops are in season right now. Expensive, but so worth getting as a treat. And they deserve the simple treatment your recipe calls for. I’ll try it out very soon – thanks!

  50. doodles says:

    Dear me those are drop dead gorgeous……………..I’m in the throws of Thankful day food, taking a bit of a break and now I think scallops would go great with turkey and dressing. Wonder what the guests would say?
    Cannot wait to replicate this beatiful dish……thank you!!

  51. Charlotte Ferreux says:

    I love this recipe and blog…I posted it on my community foodie blog. Hope you can come check it out http://www.facebook.com/thefrenchiefoodie

    Also, feel free to post you’re recipes or you’re favourite foodie tips on it whenever you like!

  52. Jennifer says:

    Wow, do you have any more recipes? Your directions and enthusiasm were absolutely hilarious to read…made me that much more excited to make some scallops!

  53. connie says:

    what green herb did you sprinkle on top of the scallops? looks fantastic

  54. jenyu says:

    connie – oh, just some chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley for color and a little flavor :)

  55. Lesli says:

    What type of white wine do you suggest? I’m a newbie to cooking & I want to make these for date night :)

  56. jenyu says:

    Lesli – i used a chardonnay in this one and it was great.

  57. Lucretia says:

    I made these last week,simple, tasty and so delicious…I followed your directions exactly.Will make these next on Christmas Eve to add to my fish dinner :)

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  59. Patsy says:

    Just found your blog through Pinterest. The scallops look and sound delicious. I was laughing out loud at your “taste like ass” comment. My middle son and I have sensitive palates…and after tasting some food, we turn and look at each other and say “this tastes like ass” at the same time!

  60. Heather says:

    I found this recipe from pinterest and just made it tonight. I’ve never made scallops or eaten scallops (besides sushi) before and really appreciate all of your information about what scallops to buy and exactly how long to cook them. They turned out great! I am definitely going to use this recipe from now on! So delicious!!!

  61. Tay says:

    OMG! I just made these. So easy. So yummy. My guy will just gobble these up on Friday when I make these for him.

  62. Lydia says:

    OH.MY.GOD. These look devine! I know what I will be making for dinner =)

  63. sheila says:

    Perfectly said, I love how you put it. Your so right about the stuff they put in scallops, and glad to hear I can buy those dry scallops in Whole Foods. Why can’t we have more stores with fresh food and etc. It’s coming back like the old days , little butcher shops with the freshest of fresh meat . Gone will be the bulk stores with all the preservatives and crap to save the shelf life.

  64. Cyndi Kozak says:

    My husband makes these all the time, matter of fact we use a cast iron skillet and have had them twice while on vacation in the OBX just recently. We had T-bone steaks with them and it was the Best meal hands down!

  65. Helene says:

    I used to love scallops growing up in Philly many years ago. As an adult I would usually order them out and lost my taste for them completely. That’s because I didn’t know they were being injected, leaving them with no taste at all. About 10 years ago, I had huge, fresh scallops right off of a Barnegat Bay dayboat in New Jersey and WOW!, that’s when I re-discovered real scallops. Your recipe looks fabulous and I can’t wait to try it and thank you for mentioning that they still cook after being removed from the pan. That was what was foiling my attempts to cook them at home. I now expect to cook mine as perfectly as yours look.

  66. Priscilla says:

    Thanks for all I can say I really learned something new today going to try them this weekend

  67. Ann says:

    Thank you for your wonderful adoration of scallops…I just prepared scallops from the recipe above and feel quite guilty that no one knows how great they were except me…..then it occurred to me that I could let you know that something heavenly just happened…..just plain happy, thanks, Ann

  68. Clark Fish says:

    This recipe is beyond delicious!

  69. Angela @ Cravin Cake says:

    These look so yummy…now just to find some quality scallops

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  71. Jamain says:

    I love your sense of humor! This is amazing btdubs! Cheers!

  72. Nicole B/Noshings says:

    ok, so Im a little late to the party…only 4 and a half years or so, you know, fashionably late.
    I must hit Whole Foods for my scallops…I live pretty close to Boulder but closer to Ft. Collins, so Im assuming they will have the same supplier for dry scallops.
    I saw some at Sam’s and decided not to get them, but I can trust Whole Foods.
    Thank you for the tip!
    Will be trying this recipe this weekend!

  73. VaLin says:

    Nicole, I’m with you — better late than never! Am trying these tonight! Love making such good use of all those yummy goodies left in the pan. I’m thinking a squeeze of fresh lemon and some finely chopped fresh parsley, as pictured, at the last minute! Can’t wait!

  74. Moda says:

    Fine line between under and overcooked! And they should NEVER smell like “fish” or they aren’t fresh! Smell before you buy! Don’t be intimidated.. It’s your money and your dinner!!

  75. Andrew McAllister says:

    My wife and I just made this recipe and it was FABULOUS! We agreed – this was the most high-end-restaurant-like meal we’ve ever made at home. Thanks! And we didn’t overcook so no finger-thwacking is required :o)

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  79. Jen says:

    Finally made these after pinning this on Pinterest months ago. Excellent! I was like a gourmet chef in under 5 minutes. Love the sauce!

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  81. Emil says:

    I could die for this meal. Your pics look amazing and the idea of making this beautiful sauce is genius! Definitely on my list!

  82. evie says:

    My mother in law gave a pack of
    brown dry scallop, I think it came
    from China.What dish will fit to
    this kind of scallop?

  83. jenyu says:

    evie – you can try making Chinese xo sauce with it. I know my mom will rehydrate a single large dried scallop in water and shred it up to add to a vegetable stir-fry for umami flavor. Also, use the broth (don’t throw it out – it’s like liquid gold) to flavor braises or soups.

  84. Allison says:

    Love this recipe? Simple ingredients, pure food.

  85. evie says:

    Thank you so much. I rehydrate around 5 pcs of
    dry scallop and add them all including the liquid
    into my chicken sotanghon soup …It really
    made my simple soup so yummy and delicious.
    The next time my mother in law got home,
    I’ll made this soup for her.

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    So simple and so good. Love your phtography. Thanks for sharing

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  89. Jeff says:

    Costco is one of the only places around (in the Midwest) that has dry scallops. They are frozen, but still taste delicious when thawed and cooked properly. They also have very good shrimp; most shrimp you buy is injected with the same preservative as scallops are. I always check labels on shrimp and scallops; anything besides “scallops” on the ingredients list, and I walk away.

  90. Kristina says:

    Just wanted to thank you for the great info! My hubby & I just spent a week on the Oregon coast where “fresh” seafood abounds… however, we went into a seafood market for scallops (thankfully having read your post 1st), and though the tag didn’t list any additional fine print, I asked if they were “water injected”, the salesperson didn’t know what it meant & said I was the 1st person in the 5 yr’s she worked there to ask, she pulled out a bag of frozen scallops from the back to check & there on the label “sodium tripolyphosphate” (my next question was if these are so fresh, why are they coming from a frozen bag???) So… we went elsewhere to another seafood market who did know what I was asking for & assured me they were not injected. In that moment, you made me feel like a culinary expert ;) and we were able to enjoy some amazing & fresh scallops! Just wanted to say thanks for sharing your expertise (& beautiful photos) & helping us feel like gourmet experts! :)

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  92. bbos42 says:

    My recipe is the same as yours with only two exceptions the first is optional. I S&P and then lightly dredge in flour. It gives them a light crust that I like. Second, I leave my butter in the pan, while scraping off the fond, until the water is boiled off and carefully brown the solids before adding the wine. Sometimes I also love to add capers to this sauce along with L&P.

  93. Ken Shasky says:

    Great recipes along with some laughter!~ We reside on Cape Breton Island NS Canada , selfishly speaking we are blessed with an abundance of fresh fish and seafood year round. The only one thing that I would add as a note when preparing your scallops is to cut out the small abductor mussel that most scallops are sold with either fresh or frozen. You know that’s the hard mussel like string that gets stuck in your teeth :-))
    Cheers from Cape Breton
    Ken

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