Sauteed Barnegat Scallops

“We are fortunate here in New Jersey to have complete access to the best of the best in seafood,” says Jonathan Adams, chef of The Diving Horse in Avalon. “Our purveyor, Casey and Ben’s Lobster Den in Sea Isle City, seek out fresh, jumbo scallops for us from the sandy shoals of the Barnegat shore.”

Sautéed scallops with toasted pearl pasta and frothy vermouth nage.
Photo by Jason Varney.

Sauteed Barnegat Scallops With Preserved Lemon Pearl Pasta,  Wilted Arugula, Vermouth Nage 

“When purchasing, request “dry” scallops. This means the scallops are natural and not injected with saline to plump them up. Dry scallops are a better value than so-called wet scallops, because you’re not paying for water, and the taste will confirm you made the right choice.


“The garnishes on this dish provide great textural balance. The pearl pasta has a risotto-like quality that is always a fan favorite. Allow one week to cure the lemons. They will last for months if stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.


“By the way, making the sauce is a great way to use up that open bottle of dry vermouth that no one ever appreciates.”


Serves: Four


Vermouth Nage


4 cup         clam juice


2 cup        dry vermouth


½ cup     heavy cream


4 tbsp        unsalted butter


1 lb        mussels


4 oz        broken scallop pieces


4         sliced shallots


2 pc         crushed garlic


1 pc         sliced celery rib


1 cup         sliced button mushrooms


1 tsp        crushed fennel seed


1 tsp         crushed black peppercorns


1          fresh bay leaf


1 sprig     fresh tarragon


1 sprig     fresh thyme



1.    Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a simmer.


2.    Allow to cook for 2 hours. Strain the sauce and discard the solids.


3.    In a fresh clean pot, reduce the sauce by ¼ of its original volume.


4.    This can be made one day ahead and reheated when you need it.


Preserved Lemons


6         scrubbed lemons


1 cup        kosher salt


1 cup        sugar


2 cups     olive oil



1.    Slice the lemons lengthwise, from end to end. They should be an 1/8th of an inch thick.


2.    In a medium bowl, toss the lemons with the salt and sugar.


3.    Line the lemon slices like toy soldiers in a non reactive storage container and cover with excess salt/sugar mix.


4.    Cover tightly and set in the fridge for 1 week.


5.    After one week, rinse the lemons and remove the seeds.


6.    Dice the lemons completely. Use the rind, the pith and the flesh.


7.    Place in a mason jar and cover with olive oil.


Pearl Pasta


1 cup         pearl pasta (aka Israeli couscous)


1 cup        diced Spanish onion


1 pc         sliced garlic


3 cups        water


1 tbsp        olive oil



1.    Preheat oven to 375F.


2.    On a rimmed cookie sheet or bake-safe tray, toast the pasta in the oven for 10-12 minutes until it takes on a dry, nutty color. Set aside.


3.    In a wide, heavy pot add the olive oil and heat for 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft and translucent without taking on any color.


4.    Add the pasta and coat with the oil and vegetables. Add the water and bring to a boil.


5.    Simmer the pasta for 30 minutes. The goal is to evaporate all of the water and yield plump, cooked pasta. If the pan dries out, just add a little more water as needed.


6.    Pour the cooked pasta into a flat container and allow to cool.


Final Preparation:


12         dry, jumbo scallops


4 cups        baby arugula


2 tbsp        olive oil


1 tbsp         unsalted butter


salt to taste


4 cups        cooked pearl pasta


1 tbsp        diced preserved lemons


1 tbsp        unsalted butter


½ cup        water


½ tbsp    lemon juice


salt to taste


2 cups        vermouth nage


1 tsp         tarragon vinegar


1.    Heat the vermouth nage and season with the tarragon vinegar. Set aside.


2.    Rewarm the pearl pasta with the diced lemons, butter and water. Season with the lemon juice and salt.


3.    Warm a heavy cast iron pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Season the scallops with salt.


4.    Add the olive oil to the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the scallops and sear on one side for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and flip the scallops over. Turn the heat down to medium.


5.    Baste the scallops with the butter, taking care not to burn the butter. Let the scallops cook for 2 minutes.


6.    Remove the scallops from the pan and drain on a paper towel.


7.    In the same pan, quickly wilt the arugula in the used butter. Drain on a paper towel.


8.    For family-style plating, choose a large platter and place the pasta in the center. Arrange the arugula in a small mound on top. Place the scallops around the pasta and pour the sauce over.



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