Scallops, fresh mushrooms and wine: Romantic decadence for two

by Terry B on February 11, 2009

Sea scallops with Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms is a slightly indulgent, slightly exotic dish that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day—or any special dinner. Recipe below.

As Saveur magazine so accurately puts it in their provocatively titled newsletter Saveur’s Entirely Aphrodisiac Menu, “Who doesn’t love sensual and tasty indulgences like caviar, chocolate, foie gras and truffles?”

And to that list I’d add slightly exotic [or at least slightly extravagant], slightly grown up ingredients like sweet-tasting sea scallops and fleshy, earthy, decidedly non-button mushrooms. Throw in some butter, a little dry white wine and fresh ginger and suddenly, it’s time for candlelight and knowing smiles.

This dish demands freshness, especially when it comes to the scallops. Don’t be afraid to ask the fishmonger [even if he or she is also the butcher at your local supermarket] to let you smell them. They should smell fresh and briny and definitely not fishy. Fortunately [or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it], most scallops you find in the United States have been shipped “previously frozen.” They are then thawed in the store as needed. In the plus column, that means they’re more likely to be fresh. In the not so plus column, some sources feel they’re more likely to steam than properly sear in the pan. There’s a quick little cheat for getting around this problem that I didn’t use when cooking the scallops above, but I’ll mention in the Kitchen Notes.

The recipe, adapted from one found in Wine Spectator magazine, calls for three kinds of mushrooms. I used two of the three, shiitake and oyster, because I could find them and like their flavors. I also think oyster mushrooms are wonderfully, weirdly beautiful. Feel free to substitute here, according to your likes and availability. As a side, I found that a simple mixed greens salad with a plain vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper complemented the scallops and mushrooms beautifully. The rest of the bottle of dry white wine you used to cook the mushrooms would also go down quite nicely.

Scallops with Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms
Serves 2 [Can be doubled, if you're into that sort of thing]

1/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter, plus more for scallops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 scallions, diagonally sliced
3 slices fresh ginger
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
10 large sea scallops [3/4 pound total or a little more]
flour for dredging [optional—see Kitchen Notes]
canola oil
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Prepare mushrooms.
Gently brush away any dirt on mushrooms with a dry wad of paper towel. Remove stems from shiitakes [they can be tough] and slice mushroom caps into halves or thirds, depending on size. Carefully pull apart oyster mushrooms into individual petals. Slice the largest ones in half lengthwise.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick lidded skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shiitake and oyster mushrooms for 5 minutes, or until they are browned, stirring occasionally and sprinkling them lightly with salt and pepper as they cook. Add the scallions, ginger and wine. Cook the mixture, tossing or stirring, until the wine is almost evaporated. Add the broth. Reduce heat to medium low, cover the pan and let the mushrooms stew until they are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Uncover the pan and remove the ginger slices. This can be done up to four hours in advance. Reheat before proceeding.

Prepare scallops. Rinse scallops carefully to remove any grit. If your scallops have white, sinewy looking pieces on the side [sometimes they do, sometimes not], trim them off with a sharp knife; this is the foot that attached it to the shell. Blot scallops dry with paper towels and arrange on plate with flat sides up. Season with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, brown the scallops in a mix of canola oil and butter over high heat, about 2 minutes. Transfer the scallops, browned side up, to the pan with the hot mushrooms. Cover the pan, turn off the heat and let the scallops finish cooking in the residual heat of the pan, 2 minutes or so.

Divide the scallops on two plates. Spoon the mushroom mixture around the scallops and sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Kitchen Notes

Earn extra browning points. If your scallops were previously frozen, here’s a way to make sure they brown nicely. Immediately before plopping them in the skillet to brown, dredge the flat tops and bottoms lightly in flour. In this case, because you’re only browning one side, just dredge one side. Use a very light touch. You’re not trying to batter them—you just want to give the fat in the pan a nice, dry, brownable surface to work with. Even if you’re fortunate enough to get scallops that have never been frozen, this little trick can ensure satisfyingly browned scallops.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Helmut February 11, 2009 at 11:10 am

Looks so tasty!!!

Mimi February 11, 2009 at 12:29 pm

This is perfect! What’s your recommendation for a wine pairing, TerryB?

Carol February 11, 2009 at 1:24 pm

I never dared do anything other than simply saute scallops….so to pair them with a luscious melange of mushrooms-Wow! ‘Can’t wait to try this.

Melissa February 11, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Wow! That photo is absolutely amazing. This dish belongs in a restaurant. Scallops are my favorite food & I love oyster & shitake mushrooms. I never thought of putting them together. The recipes looks so easy too & not too time consuming. I swear I will try this one.

Laura February 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Oh I heart scallops! And that is a great tip with the flour…especially relevant given how hard it is to get good fresh scallops around. I saw some being sold in their shell the other day which I guess would pretty much guarantee that they’d never been frozen. How great would it be to braise them in their shells with some butter and braised leeks?

Jennifer Hess February 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Gorgeous, just gorgeous.

Donald February 11, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Scallops are one of my most fav things to eat. I like the pairing here. I never miss an opportunity when at WF to get fresh scallops when they are there. I will change that whole nights menu for fresh scallops. :-)

Terry B February 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Hi, Helmut! It was.

A great question, Mimi! Wine Spectator suggests Grüner Veltliner, a variety of white wine grape that accounts for more than a third of the grapes grown in Austria; it’s also widely grown in the Czech Republic and has a reputation of producing particularly food-friendly wine. But any dry white wine that isn’t too big [no oaky, buttery chardonnays, for instance] would work. And I’m always a fan of a nice, dry sparkling wine for Valentine’s Day [or any day ending in "day"].

Carol—And scallops so easily give themselves to simple preparations. Sometimes, I sauté them with a little tarragon and serve them over garlicky sautéed spinach.

Yeah, Melissa. For Valentine’s Day, you want something delicious, but something that also doesn’t chain you to the stove for hours.

Laura—And the shells would be great for a fancypants way for serving a little amuse bouche on, perhaps just one of the scallops on spinach I mentioned above.

Thanks, Jennifer! Can’t wait to read what you and Mike cook up for Valentine’s Day.

Donald—I got mine from local chain Treasure Island. They had been previously frozen, but were wild caught off Prince Edward Island. Quite delicious!

Randi February 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Every Christmas we have a large company dinner for all 70 of our employees and it is always a traditional Chinese banquet. Most years there is a dish that is very similar to this with an amazing variety of mushrooms that I’ve never even seen before and it is so delicious. I can’t even describe it. I am definitely adding this to my Valentine’s dinner this weekend.

Carolyn February 13, 2009 at 1:18 am

Terry, this looks delicious (and jam-packed with umami!). I’m not sure how relevant this is for people in parts of the country other than the coasts, because they may not be able to find “dry scallops”; but one of the dirty little secrets of the scallop world is that even when they’re not pre-frozen, many scallops are injected with sodium tripolyphosphate, which keeps them artificially moist. It also makes them impossible to brown properly, and I think has probably driven many an unsuspecting cook crazy thinking her technique needs improving, when in fact the game was rigged against her from the start. Scallops sold as “dry” have not been treated and will brown like a charm, as well as taste a lot fresher. Dry scallops are worth asking for, at least. They are now widely available in the northeast, mostly because enough consumers made it clear that they cared!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) February 13, 2009 at 1:29 am

When I started doing a bit of research, I discovered a startling number of aphrodisiac foods in my pantry, including several ingredients in your recipe. Scallops are one of my husband’s favorites, and this looks like a dish he would love for Valentine’s Day.

Terry B February 13, 2009 at 2:59 am

Randi—Um, we might be available this Christmas if you need extra guests. Seriously.

Thanks for the info, Carolyn! I’d read a little about dry scallops, but wasn’t sure about availability—I’ve not noticed them here in Chicago. They can also be quite expensive, but I’m guessing as more home cooks begin to demand them and they become the norm, the prices will eventually come down.

Hi, Lydia! I don’t know that any of the ingredients in this dish are true aphrodisiacs [or that there are indeed any true ones], but anything that tastes indulgent—and is cooked with love—can certainly set the right mood. I’m reminded of a wonderful New Yorker cartoon. In it, a rhinoceros with a huge horn says to a sympathetic tiger, “They say it’s an aphrodisiac, but it hasn’t done jack for me.”

altadenahiker February 13, 2009 at 3:06 am

On the other hand, maybe it did jack for Jill.

Terry B February 13, 2009 at 3:18 am

You were a handful in school, weren’t you, altadenahiker?

Ashley February 13, 2009 at 4:20 am

This looks wonderful! Great photo :)

Kathleen February 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Decadent indeed.

Is asking that beautiful plate of food to be my valentine.
I <3 it.

yes
no
maybe

great post! thnx for the virtual meal, the drool here is quite real. ha.

Mike February 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

These look delicious! I’ve actually never cooked scallops yet, so I appreciate the detailed write up. One of these days, I’ll take the plunge.

Paula Maack February 13, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I love this dish, and I will have to go check out the article in Saveur, as well. What a tempting photo!!!

I am all about aphrodisiacs. In fact, I have an alphabetical list of aphrodisiacs posted on my site, and have also just blogged about an aphrodisiac infused Valentines Day picnic at home here, should you be interested.

Looks like we are on the same wavelength, again. ;)

Happy Valentines Day!!

~ Paula

diva February 14, 2009 at 10:19 am

wow. that is one amazing valentine’s day dish – i’m salivating so bad! x

altadenahiker February 14, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Got some beautiful scallops from my farmer’s market. Can’t wait.

Sharona May February 17, 2009 at 1:46 am

Looks beautiful. What a nice , romantic meal.

Sharona May

Kat February 17, 2009 at 3:17 am

Hi,
I came across your recipe on TasteSpotting and made it for Valentine’s Day. It was sooo good! Thank you! I need to find some time this week to review your blog. I am a new blogger and coming across so many great blogs I am starting to lose count!

Terry B February 17, 2009 at 4:54 am

Thanks, Ashley!

Kathleen—I love the Valentiny comment—yes, no, maybe. Takes me back to junior high.

I fear you’ll have to wait a bit longer, Mike. Various things I’ve read say that pregnant women should not eat shellfish [everyone, Mike's wife is pregnant, not him—just thought I should clear that up].

A great list, Paula! Hope your Valentine’s Day included most or all of them.

Hi, diva! I bet you whipped up an amazing dessert for the occasion.

altadenahiker—So how’d they turn out?

Thanks, Sharona!

Welcome to Blue Kitchen, Kat—and to blogging!

Toni February 18, 2009 at 2:03 am

One of my favorite meals, and I’m self-indulgent enough to make it for myself, any day of the year!

Hope you and Marion had a splendid Valentine’s Day, Terry.

MODman February 18, 2009 at 2:25 am

If there is one great crime on this earth, it is that you can only get fresh scallops if you live on the coast. We may have great lamb here in Colorado but there is nothing like a succulent scallop. Well done, I will give this a try with our wonderful, flown in scallops.

Selkie February 19, 2009 at 10:31 pm

I marinate scallops in a bit of REALLY GOOD teriyaki sauce and lemon for a few hours, then blot dry with paper towel and whiz them through a very hot saute pan (peanut oil) to brown on each side. The teriyaki marinade makes a bit of a sauce. Delicious.

Eric Hoffman February 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Looks great. I have not tried to make scallops at home yet. I used to live in Chicago and walked to Treasure Island all the time. I miss it!

Eric

Terry B February 20, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Toni—We did have a lovely Valentine’s Day, thanks! Interestingly, though, since I’d already made this romantic meal earlier so I could post it, what we decided we really wanted for dinner on Valentine’s Day was homemade pizza. So that’s what we had—of course, we tarted dinner up by opening a bottle of champagne.

MODman—I have to say, lamb is another big favorite in our kitchen.

Selkie—That sounds delicious! Scallops are such great flavor sponges, aren’t they? Makes them fun to experiment with.

Eric—Yeah, we shop all over, but whenever we go to Treasure Island, we’re always so glad we live here.

Kevin March 3, 2009 at 4:59 am

Those scallops look good!

Cydney November 16, 2009 at 1:23 am

Terry, I have been reading your blog for some time now, and I must say your updates are the most delicious part of my week! Your photos are so vibrant, your writing engaging, and of course, the recipes. The first thing I made from your site was the leeks with the lemon dijon sauce, and your linguine with red clam sauce(my favorite) has caused me to abandon my favorite Italian restaurant. Thank you so much for sharing your blog!

Terry B November 16, 2009 at 2:14 am

Thanks, Kevin!

Cyndey—And thank you so much for your wonderful comment!

Brian February 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Hi Terry,

I wanted to send a hearty thank you for this recipe! I cooked it last night, and everything came out beautifully. My wife told me that they were the best mushrooms she’s ever eaten. I was a little scared to use shiitake and oyster mushrooms, especially because my wife is very picky, but she loved them. Thanks!

Terry B February 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Thank you, Brian, for reporting back! I’m always happy to hear from readers who actually cook my recipes—especially when they’re happy with the results.

Tabs April 28, 2010 at 1:54 am

just tried it but i used button mushrooms since it was the only ones i had on hand. simple mushroom recipe but tasted amazing esp with the scallops! thanks for sharing ur recipe.

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