These Vermouth Seared Scallops on Fennel make an amazing, elegant starter course. This is perfect for winter entertaining when fennel is readily available and you are looking for something different.
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A note on purchasing scallops. Sea scallops are the large ones- about 2-3 inches in diameter.
A word about scallops…
Make sure you get ‘dry’ scallops. Some scallops are injected or soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate. This is absorbed and adds water weight to the scallops (to the producers benefit). When you cook ‘wet’ scallops the sodium tripolyphosphate is released and the scallops steam and saute and you will never get a nice caramlized browned coating. The liquid even has a smell reminiscent of fertilizer which carries over into the flavour. ‘Dry’ scallops are totally natural and should taste sweet and fresh.
I buy frozen Olivia Scallops from Costco and can highly recommend them. They are U15 which means it takes ‘under’ 15 to make up a pound. This 680 gram package is just over 1 1/2 pounds of scallops. So you will get around 22 scallops.
Make sure to use dry Vermouth as well. This means less than 50 grams of residual sugar per liter. Check here if you want to know about Vermouth.
The sauce for the scallops makes enough to serve as the dressing for the fennel salad base. It is warm and savoury and makes for a perfect winter appetizer.
Using a mandarin to slice the fennel and onion finely is required. The warm sauce softens them a bit and the texture is soft – similar to the scallops. You do not want crispy, crunchy fennel here.
The mandarins also adds a bit of brightness to the dish. In theory you could add a few more ingredients to the fennel base and make it a salad on its own. Radishes, black olives, celery? Just keep the dressing light so the flavours can shine.
I may experiment with that another day. Today I am too excited about the scallops and vermouth sauce!
Vermouth Seared Scallops on Fennel
Fennel Salad Base
Halve the fennel bulb lengthwise. Trim the end of the bulb and the remove the green stalks. Remove any green from the core of the bulb. With a mandolin, slice each half very finely cross-wise.
Slice 1/2 red onion with the mandolin.
Mix the fennel and red onion. Divide evenly over 6 salad plates. Divide mandarin pieces among the 6 plates.
Have all your ingredients for the scallops ready to go.
Rinse the scallops and allow liquid to drain off. Pat dry with paper towels. Make sure the scallops are dry on all sides or they will not brown.
In a large skillet melt 1 Tbsp of butter and the oil over medium high heat. Make sure the pan and oil are hot. To test the heat make sure a drop of water sizzles when added to the pan.
Place scallops evenly around the pan. Do not crowd. Allow scallops to sizzle for 2 minutes before flipping them over. Do not touch or move the scallops during the 2 minutes. They should be golden in colour when you flip them over. If they are not browned let them sizzle longer until the colour is achieved. Flip and cook 2 minutes on the other side. Do not touch for 2 minutes. When browned remove scallops from the pan to a side plate. Be careful not to over cook or they will get rubbery.
Add the shallots and vermouth to the pan and cook for 1 minutes. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the vermouth to half.
Add the parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook 1 minute then add the remaining Tbsp of butter.
Add the scallops back to the pan. Coat them with the sauce and allow them to rewarm. This will only take 1-2 minutes.
Place 3-4 scallops on each plate of fennel. Drizzle any remaining pan sauce over scallops and fennel bed.
Vermouth Seared Scallops on Fennel
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 53
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5.9g
Saturated Fat 2.8g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Total Carbohydrates 7.8g
Dietary Fiber 1g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.