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]
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.
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.