We're just at the beginning of scallop season off Florida's gulf coast, which started earlier this month and runs through September, so this week's recipe is an homage to the mollusks.
If you're heading out to catch some — or cook some — consider these facts and tips about scallops. The ones in the first section are adapted from stories by the late Times outdoors editor Terry Tomalin, who hunted for scallops and wrote often about them.
• You can buy farm-raised bay scallops in the supermarket, but they don't taste anything like the real thing. To get the good ones, you have to go snorkeling or swimming for them.
• A single scallop can lay more than a million eggs that will float around for two weeks to a month.
• If rains are heavy, which happens when there are many hurricanes in a year, too much freshwater may flood the bay and wipe out a scallop crop. If the water is too salty, they also may not survive.
• Because scallops are generally found in waters 4 to 8 feet deep, most scallop hunters stay on the surface until they spot one or two. Then they take a deep breath and head down to grab them before they disperse.
• The state's prime scallop grounds — Homosassa, Crystal River and Steinhatchee — have the perfect combination of both freshwater and saltwater.
• The most basic thing to know about cooking scallops is that it's a relatively simple process. Sort of. They don't require much, but that means they can overcook easily.
• Don't cook scallops too far in advance before you're going to eat them. They will keep cooking after you take them out of the skillet, so wait until everything is prepared and ready to go before cooking your scallops.
• Scallops are full of protein, which makes them ideal for boosting dishes like pastas or salads. They are also a relatively mild seafood in terms of taste.
• A good way to cook scallops for any dish is this: Start by heating up a couple of tablespoons of oil or butter in a skillet. When the oil is hot, place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer. It's important that the pan and the oil are hot, and not merely lukewarm. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip carefully and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Both sides should develop a nice golden brown crust. Serve the scallops hot.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.