BBL Recipe Experiment: Miso-Seared Scallops from Kibo

Let’s talk about Scallops. These little sea mollusks often get passed over in favor of shrimp, oysters, salmon or cod in cooking and at restaurants. I’m one of those people, who, when I see a scallop dish on the menu, close my menu and impatiently say “Yup, I’m ready to order.” But scallops are more than just a tasty treat–They’re high in magnesium, iron, potassium and vitamin b12. They’re low in fat and about 31 calories a serving. They’re also an excellent source of phosphorus.

So when our friends at Ten Speed came to us with their new book, Kibo: Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Tohoku, and I took a peek and saw a recipe for Miso-Seared Scallops, I couldn’t say no. The book itself is filled with amazing recipes and traditions from Japan’s Tohoku region, which was devastated in the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Tohoku is one of Japan’s leading miso and sake producing regions, and those ingredients feature prominently in their recipes. “Kibo” literally means “brimming with hope” and a portion of proceeds from the book with go to the ongoing Japanese relief efforts.

Ok, so, back to the scallops! I have an irrational fear of cooking seafood–it’s easy to overcook, and easy to mess up–so I tend to avoid it at all costs in favor of pastas and vegetables. But this time I was determined to not only make delicious scallops, but also spread the word about helping Japan Tsunami recovery efforts. To the kitchen I went!

Finding the ingredients may seem daunting, but I found everything I needed in my local Whole Foods. Miso paste is usually in the refrigerated section (something I and the Whole Foods employee both learned!) while Dashi is near the soups. Your local liquor store should have a selection of Sake as well.

Once you have all your ingredients, making your scallops is the fun part! I also made a sauteed broccoli with sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes as a side dish, and it perfectly balance the scallops sweet and salty miso sauce.  Follow the recipes below, serve and enjoy!

Neri Miso Sauce

1/2 cup Sendai miso or other red miso

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar (depending on the specific miso used)

2 tablespoons saké

1 to 2 tablespoons stock such as dashi or water

Combine the miso, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the saké a small, heavy saucepan or skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of stock. Stir to mix thoroughly, then place over low heat and cook for about 3 minutes, until the mixture becomes bubbly and glossy and thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup (when you scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, the stroke remains visible). Let cool and taste. If the mixture seems very salty, add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the remaining tablespoon of stock; stir to mix. Return the pan to the stove and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute to be sure the flavors meld. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.


Miso-Seared Scallops

12 meaty, sashimi-quality scallops, about ?10 ounces total, freshly shucked

Saké, for rinsing

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1/4 cup Neri Miso 

Lime or lemon wedges

Dip the scallops quickly in cold water, then immediately rinse in saké. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. This dip-and-rinse procedure ensures that no bits of shell, or bacteria, cling to the scallop meats. This can be done when you first bring the scallops into your kitchen after purchasing them. If you will not be cooking them immediately, cover and refrigerate (for up to 4 hours).

Pour the sesame oil into a skillet large enough to hold the scallops in a single layer. Heat  over high heat until the oil is very aromatic, but not smoking. Place the scallops in the skillet and let them sear, undisturbed, for about ?1 minute, until lightly crusted. The meat near the bottom crusted edge will gradually become opaque. Jiggle the skillet to see if the scallops come loose. If not, slide a spatula underneath to nudge the scallops free. Flip the scallops, and scrape up any browned bits.

Place a spoonful of the neri miso sauce on top of each scallop. Flip the scallops so that the surface with miso sauce is now face down, in the skillet. A wonderful aroma will waft up. Lower the heat to avoid scorching and allow the scallops to cook for another 40 seconds, until the meat is firm when pressed lightly.

Remove from the stove and serve miso side up on light-colored dishes for the most dramatic visual effect. Scrape up any miso left in the skillet and add it to the miso-topped scallops. Garnish with lime or lemon wedges.


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