The other day I saw the sign pictured on the left announcing the annual arrival of Nantucket Bay Scallops. Like local asparagus, there are only a few weeks a year when these little sweet morsels make their way into our market. It’s an invitation I cannot refuse. They’re tender and tiny, a true delicacy. So I immediately bought enough for two and trundled home to hit the books, or more properly, the internet. I quickly found a recipe that, while it sounded vaguely familiar, really appealed to me. The sweetness of the scallops was paired with salty bits of prosciutto, a little licorice-flavored liqueur and crisp panko breadcrumbs. There was some chopped garlic thrown in and some shallot as well. I turned to the comments section. The recipe had very high marks from some reviewers. But others were not so taken with it. I’ve written about how put off I am when a home cook drastically alters an original recipe and then rails that it wasn’t any good. But in this case, there seemed to be numbers of people who’d followed the recipe to a Tee and still found it wanting. And I started to make mental notes about how easy it would be to fix their problems. It was at that moment that I realized I had indeed made this recipe last Nantucket Bay Scallop season. When you post over 450 recipes, eventually you’re bound to repeat yourself. But I still wanted to make it. So I set about to make it even better than the last time.
|“Cubetti” of Prosciutto pack more flavor
than minced sliced Prosciutto
The original recipe called for two slices of prosciutto, minced. Given that prosciutto is incredibly thin, this is really impractical. Instead I decided to use the diced prosciutto that comes in 4 ounce containers. This labor-saver also boosted the prosciutto flavor and gave a terrific counterpoint to the sweetness of the scallops. The original recipe called for Pernod. Having none, I discovered Ouzo was a perfect substitute. Finally, there was a good deal of complaining about the liquid which pooled in the bottom of the gratin dishes. To me, a great gratin does not float in liquid. The solution was to eliminate the tablespoon of wine that was supposed to go into each gratin dish. Finally, the original recipe called for using an electric mixer to make the topping that makes the dish a gratin in the first place. I am happy to report that the mixture does just fine using a plain ordinary fork, making it clean-up that much easier. The only real effort in this whole dish is removing the white muscle and membrane from each individual scallop. But that’s a small price to pay for the splendid dish you’ll create. The whole thing takes under a half hour.
Gratin of Nantucket Bay Scallops and Prosciutto
6 tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, sliced thin
2 oz. of diced Prosciutto di Parma
4 tbsp. fresh Italian Parsley, chopped plus more for garnish.
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. Ouzo or Pernod *
2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
6 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
2 lbs. fresh Nantucket Bay Scallops
* Commenters frequently left out the Ouzo or Pernod to no apparent detriment.
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Place 6 (6 inch round gratin dishes on a sheet pan.
Make the topping by combining the butter, garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Ouzo or Pernod, salt and pepper with a fork in a medium sized bowl. Once mixed, add the oil in a stream as if making mayonnaise, until the oil is combined with the mixture. Fold in the panko with a rubber spatula and set aside.
With a sharp knife, remove the white muscle and membrane from the side of each scallop and throw it away. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel a distribute them evenly among the gratin dishes. Spoon the garlic butter and Panko mixture evenly over the scallops. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the topping is golden and the scallops barely done. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Serve at once.