I personally love scallops. They remind me of my favorite fish, halibut. They are mild, tender and not very fishy-tasting at all. In fact, fresh ones should only have a slight briny perfume, and not an overwhelming odor. If they do, don't buy them. There is a season for the smaller of the two types called bay scallops. They are primarily harvested near the shore in fall and winter. The larger sea scallops are harvested year-round in deep Atlantic waters. Read more about them here. The scallops I bought were frozen New England scallops from Trader Joe's. I am a little reluctant to admit that because 1) it was Earth Day when we ate this meal and they have kind of a large carbon footprint coming from 3000 miles away and 2) I put so much emphasis on fresh. But seafood is flash-frozen, often out on the boats themselves, and can be a tasty alternative for when you cannot find them fresh. I have made these many times before and the quality is really quite good. I don't think you will be disappointed.
I tried to be creative and 'chefy' in the plating of this dish, but it was by no means a difficult endeavor. First I created a rice timbale, where I packed hot rice into a ramekin and then turned it out onto the plate, and then I drizzled a coconut sauce moat around it, in which the succulent golden scallops were floated. Then each scallop and the rice were topped with a dollop of my tomato chili jam (which you can buy at many stores by the way-not my tomato chili jam, but tomato chili jam all the same) and a roughly chopped handful of cilantro and basil. It was salty, sour, spicy and sweet...everything good Asian food should be.
Thai Coconut Scallops
1 pound of sea scallops with muscle removed
1 handful of cilantro, stems and leaves separated
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T fish sauce
zest and juice from 2 limes
1 T sesame oil
2 t chili garlic paste
1 thumb of fresh ginger, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1/2 t tamarind paste (optional)
1/2 C chicken stock
1 bunch of bok choy, thinly sliced
fresh basil leaves
hot cooked rice
Put rice on to cook.
Into a small food processor place cilantro stems, garlic, fish sauce, zest and juice from limes, sesame oil, chili garlic paste and ginger. Whiz until completely smooth. Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil and then pour in the cilantro paste. Stir for one minute then add the coconut milk, chicken stock and tamarind paste if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. Add the slivered bok choy and leave on heat just until bok choy wilts. Cover, and remove from heat.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Pat scallops dry and season both sides well with salt and pepper. Score lightly in a cross-hatch (tic-tac-toe) pattern. Place in the skillet, taking care not to crowd (you might need to do two batches). Cook on each side for about 2 minutes. Scallops should be golden brown, but be careful not to overcook them or they will become tough.
Pack hot rice into 4 oz. ramekins and turn out onto plates. Spoon coconut sauce over rice and around it. Place 4 scallops on each plate and top with tomato chili jam (or chutney of some sort). Sprinkle on chopped cilantro and basil leaves. See? That wasn't so hard.