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Scallops and Bacon

Contributed by: Charlie Burke

There is no doubt that the salty smoky taste of bacon matches well with scallops, but it is nearly impossible to properly cook them both when the bacon is wrapped around the scallops. Usually, they are cooked until the bacon is done, resulting in rubbery over-cooked scallops. I like to use pancetta or locally smoked bacon to add flavor to sautéed dishes, so when I came across some really fresh large sea scallops the other day, the bacon - scallop combination seemed like a quick fix for a flavorful dinner. A beurre blanc reduction adds some acidity to finish the dish. This preparation would work with boneless chicken breasts (pounded thin and cut into strips) or even monkfish sliced into rounds ¼ inch thick.

Scallops are very perishable, and if they are even slightly off I detect a bitter background taste. Be sure to ask if the scallops are perfectly fresh; they should have no fishy or strong odor. Buy dry pack scallops which should have no milky liquid and should feel slightly sticky; scallops in liquid have had a solution added to prolong shelf life (and which adds weight). When added to a hot sauté pan, the treated scallops exude a significant volume of solution which makes it impossible to brown them; I would not attempt this recipe with them. Serve these scallops with dark greens, such as Swiss chard or spinach or spring dandelions and your choice of starch.

For four:

  • 1 1/2 pound dry pack large sea scallops
  • 4 strips smoked bacon, preferably thick slices from a local smokehouse
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Slice bacon strips lengthwise into ½ inch strips, then slice across to make ¼ x ½ inch squares. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook bacon until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off bacon fat, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn heat to high.

Salt and pepper both sides of scallops, using less salt than usual because of the bacon. Place scallops in a single layer so that they are not touching and cook until nearly done and quite brown (3-4 minutes). Turn and finish cooking - middle is just opaque and scallops have a bouncy resistance. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add chopped shallots and cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add wine and scrape brown fond from pan. Boil until reduced by half, turn heat to low and return scallops and bacon to pan. Swirl in the butter, sprinkle with parsley if you have it and serve on warmed plates. We served the scallops with pasta sauced with sautéed leeks and artichokes, but rice or a small pasta with butter would go well.

This upscale take on an old standby is perfect for entertaining friends and can be prepared while you share a glass of wine in the kitchen!

About the author:

An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association (www.nhfma.org). His food columns appear weekly in The Heart of New England online magazine. (www.TheHeartofNewEngland.com) To subscribe send a blank email to heartofnewengland-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


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