Seared Bay Scallops With Brown Butter Emulsion

Scallop Recipes
Herman Au Photography
Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
710 Calories
40g Fat
35g Carbs
48g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 710
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 52%
Saturated Fat 24g 122%
Cholesterol 194mg 65%
Sodium 1922mg 84%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 19g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 72mg 6%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 893mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

As scallops go, bay scallops are definitely on the smaller size and more delicate. Unfortunately, this means they can quickly become overcooked and rubbery. This method solves that problem with a fast sear in clarified butter and then flavoring the scallops after they come off the heat with an emulsion of soy sauce, butter, and balsamic vinegar.


For the Emulsion:

For the Scallops:

  • 2 pounds bay scallops

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) clarified butter, recipe below

  • 2 sprigs thyme

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Brown Butter (Emulsion)

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the vinegar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and reduced to 1/2 cup, about 30 minutes.

  4. Transfer to a small bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.

  5. Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, and allow it to melt and turn light brown.

  6. Remove the butter from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

  7. Gradually whisk the browned butter into the reduced balsamic vinegar.

  8. Whisk in the soy sauce and season with pepper to taste.

  9. Reserve the emulsion at room temperature.

Cook the Scallops

  1. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season them with the salt and pepper.

  2. Coat the bottom of 2 large skillets with clarified butter (see recipe to make it below). Place the pans over a medium-high flame and heat until the butter is nearly smoking.

  3. Divide the scallops between the pans; do not shake the pans or move the scallops around. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and add a little more clarified butter to each pan.

  4. Cook the scallops until they are deeply brown on one side, about 3 minutes.

  5. Turn the scallops over, and add a sprig of thyme and a clove of garlic to each pan. Allow the scallops to brown slightly on the other side, continuously basting them with the hot butter, about 2 minutes.

  6. Transfer the scallops to a platter with a slotted spoon and reserve in a warm place.

  7. Add the 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits; remove the pan from the heat when the butter is completely melted.

  8. Pour an equal portion of the emulsion onto each plate in a wide stripe down the center.

  9. Place an equal portion of scallops, browned-side up, in the center of each plate, spoon the pan drippings around, and serve immediately.

Preparing Clarified Butter

There are a number of variations on the procedure for making clarified butter, but the end result or goal is always the same: to eliminate the milk solids, which cause the butter to burn and spit when frying or sautéing foods at higher temperatures.

Note: Clarified butter is available in Asian or Indian markets under its Indian name, ghee.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter

  1. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch slices and place it in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and then come to a boil; this should take about 5 minutes.

  2. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. The butter should sizzle and crackle; throughout the process, make sure the heat is never so high that the bottom of the pan starts to brown or blacken.

  3. Lower the heat to keep the butter at a slow, steady boil for another 15 minutes, continuing to skim any surface foam. The bubbles in the butter will become smaller and smaller, ultimately the size of a pinhead. Allow any residual milk solids to settle to the bottom of the pan.

  4. Carefully pour off the pure, clear, oily butterfat into a holding container, leaving all solids behind. (At this point, you can pass it through a tea strainer or other fine-mesh strainer just to be sure it’s completely clear.)

  5. Allow the clarified butter to cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Reprinted with permission from Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country (Clarkson Potter, 2006)

Also try this Town/Country recipe: Carpaccio of Sea Scallops With Sherry Vinegar-Honey Emulsion