It’s the season to catch your own.
A cleaned two-gallon, one-person, bag limit of Florida bay scallops will easily feed two people as an entrée, fried or broiled, accompanied by a serving of starch and a salad. But if you need to stretch your limit for a larger crowd, consider serving these small, sweet bites as an appetizer—broiled, on the half shell.
The first step in the process of creating a visually interesting appetizer of “bay scallops on the half shell” is to gather some empty shells. At the height of the scallop season, there’s no problem finding plenty of shells, but making them food-safe can take some effort. When scallops are cleaned, there’s usually some leftover meat attached to the shells, either from the adductor muscle (the part we eat) or the innards (the part we throw away).
If you use scallop shells taken directly from the cleaning table, scrub their insides with a brush and a dilute soapy bleach solution (1⁄2 cup bleach and 1⁄4 cup dishwashing detergent to a gallon of water), taking care to remove any leftover flesh.
If you find old scallop shells in someone’s yard or driveway, you can generally assume that ants have cleaned them for you, but I still recommend a quick scrub with the bleach and soap solution. In either case, rinse the shells thoroughly before assembling your appetizers.
There are plenty of variations on this tasty recipe. I’ve listed the ingredients here for one of my favorites—a version with parsley and garlic. You can easily substitute cilantro, oregano or basil (fresh or dried) for the parsley and fresh garlic for the powdered version. Or maybe a shot of sriracha, if you’re in the mood for some heat. Just don’t forget the breadcrumbs, as their crunchiness will be the perfect companion to the delicate texture of the scallops. FS
Scallops on the Half Shell
Empty, thoroughly cleaned bay scallop shells (allow 4 per serving)
Fresh bay scallops (allow 1 to 3 per serving, depending on shell size)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tbsp. dried parsley (per stick of butter)
½ tsp. garlic powder (per stick of butter)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Spray cooking oil
Coarse ice cream salt (for presentation)
In a food processor, blend butter, parsley, and garlic powder. Move to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate a few hours until firm.
Spray the insides of your scallop shells with a light coating of oil. Line the bottom of a baking dish, preferably one that can also serve as a nice serving dish, with a half-inch of coarse salt. Arrange the shells over the salt, leaving a half-inch of space between them. Put two or three scallops and a small scoop of butter mixture into each shell. Then, add a generous pinch of breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to each.
Broil your scallops in the oven under high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, watching them closely. A good indicator is when the butter mixture has melted thoroughly and the breadcrumbs have just begun to brown. Take care to not overcook the scallops, as they can toughen if left in the oven too long. No one likes to eat rubber pencil erasers!
First published Florida Sportsman Magazine July 2015