All you need to do is stop at the grocery store on the way home from work tonight and pick up five things: a pound of scallops, a bottle of white wine, organic chicken stock, a lime and a bunch of cilantro. In about half an hour you can put a bowl of pasta or rice on the table with sweet golden scallops in a tangy, garlicky broth. Aren't scallops wonderful?
Scallops are one of my favorite weeknight meals, and here's why: They cook in literally three minutes. They're also something of a treat, and usually they cost quite a bit more than chicken or tofu, which means that I'm more inclined to make them when it's just my husband and myself and not a crowd. The bonus in this story is that my husband loves scallops; a Wednesday night with scallops is suddenly special.
The Atlantic bay scallop season begins in early November, so those sweet and extra-small scallops are a good pick then. Otherwise I buy the larger sea scallop. Both sorts get rubbery if you overcook them, so watch closely. After all, their short cooking time is what makes this dish so quick and easy!
Make sure you get a drinkable white wine and polish off the rest of the bottle with dinner. This time around I chose a dry yet cheery white Rioja from Spain, made with Viura grapes, with a strong acidity and just enough fruit to balance the lime in the broth. It went very nicely with the finished dish, too.
This is a quick and quiet palate cleanser of a meal, with clean, slightly astringent flavors and the simple comfort of a warm bowl of soup in your hands. And, of course, scallops — which make even a weeknight dinner a treat.
Scallops with Lime & Cilantro
Serves two to four
1 pound linguine
4 garlic cloves, minced
Red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 lime, juiced
1/2 packed cup finely chopped cilantro, plus more to garnish
1 pound bay or sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt generously. When at a rolling boil, add the linguine and cook for 9 to 11 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta, return it to the cooking pot, and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat a drizzle of olive oil over low heat and cook the garlic for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant. If desired, add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes, until slightly reduced. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Squeeze in the lime juice, add the cilantro, and taste and adjust seasoning. Keep warm at a low simmer while you cook the scallops.
Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.
If cooking larger sea scallops, place them in the pan (don't crowd it) and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes then flip. Cook for 3 minutes total. They should develop a golden sear on each side.
If cooking the smaller bay scallops add the scallops and cook very quickly, shaking and stirring, until they are barely golden on the outside and warm within. This will take 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve, fill 2 to 4 bowls with pasta. Divide the scallops between the bowls and pour the warm broth over them. Garnish with additional cilantro and eat immediately.
(Images: Faith Durand)