Unlike last fall, Peconic bay scallops are not plentiful this year, and they are not cheap. I’m just grateful that we can get them. Think of those poor deprived scallop-eaters in Gotham City, a mere 100 miles away. Last week I saw Nantucket bay scallops on offer at an NYC seafood store for $50 a pound. They were puny little things compared with our plump Peconics and the sign described them as “buttery.” Hah! That’s what you call a scallop that’s 20 hours past prime time. Ours are sweet, almost translucent, with a light coral shade and worth every penny of the breathtaking price that started in November north of $25 a pound and has inched up since then.
You can hang out down at the Yacht Club parking lot and race to snag the scallops dropped by hungry seagulls before they swoop down to pick through the broken shells, or you can pay for a pound and make them go as far as possible. This recipe operates under the same premise that made Hamburger Helper popular decades ago; take a limited amount of an expensive and delicious ingredient, combine it with something hearty and filling (like potatoes and sweet onions) and let the main attraction shine through.
Combine one pound of bay scallops with unpeeled new potatoes, cippolini onions, garlic and herbs to make a roasted one-dish meal that can feed four as long as no one gets too piggy. We are as lucky with potatoes on the East End as we are with scallops, they are local and delicious. If you can find some blue potatoes to mix with the red ones dinner will look very patriotic, but all red-skinned works just as well.
Surf and Earth: Peconic Bay scallops
with potatoes and onions
12 new potatoes, at least the size of a jumbo egg, preferably a mix of red and blue, unpeeled and cut in half.
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves.
8 cippolini onions, peeled and cut in half
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and drained
1 pound Peconic bay scallops
Juice of ½ a lemon
3 teaspoons minced parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cut the potatoes in half, toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, garlic and thyme. Place them cut side down on a large sheet pan lined with parchment.
3. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the cut sides are brown and crusty. Put them aside.
4. Toss the onions with 2 teaspoons olive oil and place them flat side down in an iron skillet in the same oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown. Flip the onions with a spatula, add the capers, return to the oven, and cook another 10 minutes, or until the other side is brown and the onions soften. Add the onion mixture to the potato/garlic/thyme mixture.
5. Put the scallops in a colander and allow them to drain for about 10 minutes. Blot them with a paper towel; they should be as dry as possible.
6. Add 2 more teaspoons of olive oil to the iron skillet, and put it in the 425 degree oven to reheat for 3 minutes. Add the scallops to the hot olive oil, in a single layer, spacing them out so they don’t crowd the pan or touch the other scallops. If your skillet is not large enough to cook them in one batch, do it twice. Put them in the hot oven for exactly 5 minutes without stirring them or opening the oven door. They should be opaque, and very light brown on the side that touched the skillet.
7. Fold the scallops into the potato and onion mixture, with the lemon juice, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.