This is the bi-valve shellfish with a flat, fanned bottom shell and domed fan shaped upper shell. There are essentially two types. The bigger Sea scallop lives in open waters and the smaller ones, generally known as Bay scallops, are more commonly found in sheltered waters. The Isle of Man’s Queenie scallop is a variety of the latter.
Found all round the world, the major, cylindrical adductor muscle of all scallops is naturally sweet, tender and delicate in flavour. The orange (female) or grey-pink (male) shape attached is known as the coral and the roe or milt sacs. These have a more robust flavour and are often removed for sale but the combination of the two makes a very attractive presentation.
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Fresh scallops have a creamy, sometimes fawn colour, and if unprocessed in any way are sold as ‘dry’ scallops; if they are very white they have been treated with phosphates to keep them plump and fresh and are known as ‘wet’ scallops but the flavour and texture are affected minimally. The less they smell the fresher they are but a faint sweetish aroma is common.
Frozen scallops can be very good value. The more slowly they defrost the better they will be, so leaving overnight in a refrigerator gives the best result.
Cook and eat fresh scallops within 24 hours: cooked, refrigerated scallops should be eaten within two days.
If you have whole scallops on the shell, or directly off them, remove the tough membrane, black intestinal thread and other organs surrounding the adductor muscle, without damaging the coral.
Undercook rather than overcook. Scallops are regularly served rare and it is safe to do so. Grilling or frying should be done at medium heat, so they do not dry out and become tough. All scallops give off liquid when heated; the very white, treated scallops will lose much more if heated excessively.
Big scallops may be halved or quartered across their circumferences for last- minute inclusion in pasta dishes or mixed seafood stews or for serving in a white wine sauce; keep cheeses to a minimum if grilling for effect.
Don’t annihilate scallops with highly flavoured or chillied sauces, except in tiny amounts as a zingy condiment. Grating lemon zest directly over scallops is better than drowning in lemon juice. Scallop corals cook faster than the white meat and are especially good when added to and quickly cooked with crisp-fried lardons of bacon or pancetta.
Pioneering BBC-TV Chef Glynn Christian is author of REAL FLAVOURS - the Handbook of Gourmet and Deli Ingredients, voted 'World's Best Food Guide'.