Blackened Scallops with Sweet Heat Lime Sauce

This recipe started off in Nantucket on a great trip with some friends.  I had made blackened scallops before, but there was some real pressure on this particular trip.  We were staying at a house on the island in October of 2009 for a long weekend.  The house is nicely situated on an inlet with some good views.  So the scene is set and the pressure mounts.  All three couples staying at the house are notorious foodies.  A couple of them can really throw down in the kitchen, which they did and I’ll get to in a minute.  All of them grew up eating seafood regularly and I hadn’t made my blackened scallops in several years, the last time they were frozen in a bag.  Well, there’s nothing like rising to the occasion.  Particularly when you are blitzed from an afternoon of drinking and revelry. 

The seafood was purchased from a fishmonger shack and that is literally what it was.  Smelled of fresh fish and lots of it.  When we got there, Justin and Alexi were immediately drawn to the fresh Ahi Tuna.  They picked up the tuna, I picked up the scallops and off we went.  The only accompanyment I could think which was easy to make was my Grilled Corn & Cilantro side dish.  Well, the long and short is that Justin and Linda made some really incredible sesame crusted seared tuna.  I hope that they will give me the recipe some day to post up here.  The blackened scallops came out great and went really well with the cilantro corn. 

Since then, this recipe has made it through the rotation several times.  The most recent addition is the Sweet Heat Lime Sauce.  A couple nights ago I made this and it came out better than expected considering it was never intended to be made.  I had lime in my hand and squeezed it over the pan rather than the plate.  Damn dirty martini- you tricked me again.  The sauce pairs nicely with the scallop, accenting the sweetness and pairs superbly with the grilled corn with cilantro.  The dish doesn’t need the sauce, but if you are feeling adventurous, give it a shot.  You could make this as an appetizer if all you have is bay scallops or just cut the recipe in half and don’t make the corn.  I would garnish an appetizer with a thin sliver of lime without the rind.

Serves 4


16 diver scallops, rinsed, cleaned and dried on paper towels
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
Garlic Powder
Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper

For the Sweet Heat Lime Sauce:

1 juicy lime or more if they aren’t juicy- might help to juice ahead of time as well and keep in a small bowl.
1 tsp granulated sugar or 1 tsp agave syrup

1 recipe of Grilled Corn & Cilantro- check in the category of Sides for this recipe.

Blackening or browning scallops isn’t all that hard to do.  The key to getting them to turn is making sure that they are rinsed, cleaned and most importantly, DRY.  You rinse them to get the white juice off.  I am not sure what that is, but it isn’t appealing at all.  You clean them by removing the foot.  It looks like a little chunk of tough scallop which just doesn’t belong there.  Just peel it off and pitch it.  Layer some paper towels over a plate and place the scallops there.  Lightly press on top with more paper towels.  I let them sit there for a couple minutes so the excess moisture is pulled from them.  Now that we have some prepared scallops, onto the next step.

I like to score my scallops.  It helps them to cook quickly and gives them a nice look.  Simply take a paring knife and make a tic-tac-toe board pattern on both sides of each scallop.  Be careful not to cut your fingers.  A sharp knife will make this process super quick.  When they are scored, salt them, then pepper them, then cayenne them and finally garlic powder them.  Don’t be shy with the garlic powder and cayenne as much as you think is necessary for your heat needs.  I use quite a bit myself.  Once each side of the scallop is seasoned, it’s time to cook.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add butter and olive oil/canola oil.  You add the oil so that the butter doesn’t burn.  When it is hot hot, place the scallops in the pan, making sure that you are not overcrowding the pan.  If you put too many in, the pan temperature will fall drastically and the scallops will not brown or blacken.  Cook each side for 1-2 minutes or until the scallop feels slightly firm to the touch.

Remove the scallops from the pan and set aside.  Working quickly, juice  the lime into the hot pan.  This will deglaze the pan.  Add the sugar/agave and stir quickly.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

Plate the scallops over a bed of the cilantro corn and coat with the lime sauce.  Blackened scallops, quick like a bunny.

Sweet scallops and savory grilled cilantro corn make this dish a treat. Photo by Scott Groth

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One Response to Blackened Scallops with Sweet Heat Lime Sauce

  1. DAVID KRIS February 5, 2012 at 2:20 AM #

    Hey thanks for the yummy recipe! The lime sauce was a great idea and the trick of drying the scallops made SUCH a difference! Last time I tried cooking scallops seared in a pan they stuck like crazy and the best part was left in the pan. This was a great tip! Stainless steel pan, just a small amount of mixed butter and grapeseed oil (because it burns at a higher temp than olive oil) and no sticking at all!


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