Seared Sea Scallops with Fig-Balsamic Glaze

Scallops with Fig-Balsamic Glaze, served with oven-roasted asparagus and shaved Manchego cheese (Apologies for the bad iphone photo, I was hungry.)

Scallops are simply wonderful for a quick meal – they only take a few minutes to cook and there are many simple ways to serve them.  I love them seared and served on a bed of creamy risotto and roasted asparagus, with a trickle of balsamic glaze over the top.  This is the essence of that dish, without the added carbs from the rice.  The sweetness of the glaze complements the scallops as well as the asparagus, and the salty bite from the cheese keeps in in balance.  We scarfed it down in no time – so I’m having to make do with this quickly snapped iphone photo!

Be sure to buy the plump sea scallops for this recipe.  Also, look for “dry packed” or “chemical free” scallops because scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that whitens them and makes them absorb more liquid, increasing their weight by as much as 30 percent. This phosphate solution is a common ingredient in soaps and detergents, so any scallops soaked in that solution may have a soap-like flavor.  We don’t want that, so go for the best quality scallops.

To get a nice sear on the scallops, make sure they are dry before plopping them in the hot skillet.  I blot them dry with paper toweling and let them rest on a paper towel just prior to cooking them.

Ingredients (amounts are approximate):

  • 10 sea scallops (or 4-5 per adult)
  • Kosher or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil, suitable for high heat cooking (I like coconut oil for this recipe)
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • ~1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fig jam or preserves
  • ~1/4 cup light broth or water (seafood stock would be ideal, but water is okay)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

Dry scallops with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Place a thin layer of oil in a heavy skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering-hot.  Place the scallops in the oil and sear for about 2 minutes on each side until nicely browned.  Do not crowd the pan or the scallops will steam instead of searing (cook in 2 batches if necessary).

Move the cooked scallops to a plate and set aside.  Reduce the heat under the pan, and add a little more oil to the pan if needed.  Add the minced shallot and cook, stirring, for about one minute.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and broth.  Using a wooden spoon, stir and scrape at the bottom of the pan to loosen the fond (browned bits).  Stir in the fig jam.  Allow the sauce to reduce for a few minutes, until it is a rich glaze in the pan – but be careful not to let it dry out or burn.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.

Add the scallops back to the pan briefly to reheat, turning them to coat in the glaze.  Serve hot with roasted asparagus and a few shavings of Manchego cheese (or Parmesan).

[To oven-roast the asparagus, preheat oven to 400F.  Trim the ends from the asparagus and place in a shallow roasting pan.  Toss with a little olive oil (or oil of choice) to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 12-15 minutes, shaking pan occasionally for more even browning.]

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13 thoughts on “Seared Sea Scallops with Fig-Balsamic Glaze

  1. Where’s the best place to get good phosphate solution-free sea scallops around these parts Nancy? Love the combo of flavors you used!

    1. Thanks, Patty! Whole Foods claims that their scallops are “dry” and have never been treated with chemicals, so that is where I usually get mine. Sometimes they are even on sale. I don’t know about Dekalb Farmer’s Market scallops – I’ll have to ask next time I go. You can also order good Alaskan scallops on-line from Vital Choice Wild Seafood, but they are pricey!

  2. Stunning….could I use pork tenderloin medallions instead of the sea scallops (what I have in the fridge?)…I love scallops..but I have fresh figs…confiture de figue, and some lonely pork waiting to be made into something!

    1. Funny that you ask – when I made this the first time with scallops, I neglected to measure anything so I had to make the sauce again. I made it with pork the second time, and it was fantastic. You can also use a different fruit or jam. (I like it with sour cherry preserves also!)

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