You are leafing through a magazine or cookbook, or maybe you are cruising through a few good food blogs. You come across a gorgeous photo of thick meaty scallops. They are seared to a crispy golden brown. But you just know they are sweet and juicy on the inside. They are oh so simply presented, sitting beside some lovely veggies or atop a creamy plate of risotto.
You actually salivate. You scan the recipe. All the usual suspects. Okay, you decide, "I can do this". You are a good cook. You know you are.
You know to use a straight-sided sauté pan. Not a sloped style fry pan. You are not stupid. You know the pan can't be too big because you want to radiate some heat. But you are savvy enough not to crowd them into a small pan either. Who wants steamed scallops. You weren't born yesterday.
You rush to the store. Oh look, a big bag a frozen scallops is on sale at CostCo. You do not really need 10 pounds. But hey, they are frozen. They'll keep right?
But like I said you are a good cook and you have noticed that those big frozen scallops tend to disappoint you for some reason. You can't put your finger on it. But sometimes the sweet, full fresh taste of the sea is abridged by a faintly metallic taste.
You drop the bag back into the freezer case and head for the fish counter. No, this time you are not going to be taken in by the price.
This time you are splurging on fresh. The recipe seems to deserve it. Besides, cooking scallops is practically simplistic. It's like a filet mignon. You put it in a hot pan and cook to just past rare. Who can't do that?
You get to the counter to look for some help. How come there is never the same guy working here twice? They certainly do have a heck of a rotation of knowledgeable fishmongers at this place, you convince yourself.
But none of that matters because there they are; the scallops of your dreams. Nearly as big as a fist, and oh so heavy. Juicy too! They are practically weeping with moisture. Now you are weeping. The lady next to you starts to cry. It's time to focus...
These are the ones. Sure they cost an arm and a leg. But how much can a dozen really cost you anyway. Oh! $25.00. Really... "Ah, screw it. It's only money" you decide. You grunt and throw a dozen over your shoulder and lug them home with you.
When you spend this kind of money on a first course you want it to be good. So you take your time with the mis en place. You get everything just so.
You heat some oil in a pan until it just shimmers slightly. When it's good and hot you gently slide those babies into the pan. You know to let them be. You resist the urge to move them about the pan a lot. Too much love and you won't get that gorgeous golden brown color you saw in the photos. They will release themselves from the pan when they are good and ready. This much you know.
So you stand there and wait. Clicking your tongs to that old Madonna tune you have going on in your mind "...Borderline, feels like I'm going to lose my mind...Borderline".
But you make it the entire 5 minutes without disturbing them. You start to flip those sweethearts over.
First thing you notice is how much moisture these guys gave up in cooking. I mean you appreciate the facial and all. But these scallops are half the size they started. Maybe you should have gotten 16 of them. You silently hope there are enough for everyone.
And another thing. Where is that golden brown color you envied in the photos?? Yours are a creamy translucent milky color of white. They smell done. The recipe clearly says: 5 minutes undisturbed on one side and 30-45 seconds on the other side.