Friday, May 3, 2019

Scallops with Beurre Blanc

Fresh sea scallops were on sale at my local supermarket this week. “On sale” was a bit misleading, since the sale price was enough to make you gulp, but what the heck, why not? I bought a pound.

My mother and grandmother liked scallops, but they were convinced the only “good” ones were the tiny bay scallops (whose shells are the ones you find on beaches in the summer). Sea scallops are bigger, but I’ve found they’re equally tender (and I haven’t found a shell for one yet!).

Then I hunted down a recipe. There weren’t a whole lot of them, but I stumbled upon Darina Allen’s version (she’s one of my cooking idols these days), which she calls “the most exquisite way to eat really fresh scallops . . . the most sublime combination of flavors.” After trying it, I agree.

Of course I tinkered with the recipe just a bit. And I must confess: while I’ve heard of it for years, mainly in French recipes, I have never cooked beurre blanc in my life. But my time had come.

Sauteed Scallops with Beurre Blanc

(this recipe makes two servings)

Beurre Blanc

You make the beurre blanc first:


2 Tblsp white wine
2 Tblsp white wine vinegar
1 Tblsp minced shallots
Salt and while pepper
1 Tblsp heavy cream
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Freshly squeezed lemon juice


Combine the wine, wine vinegar shallots and a little pepper in a heavy saucepan. Boil the mixture to reduce it to about one-half tablespoon.

Add the cream and boil until it begins to thicken.

Whisk in the chunks of cold butter, a few at a time, while keeping the sauce warm.

Strain out the shallots (I used a slotted spoon), and season the liquid with salt, white pepper and lemon juice, to taste.

Keep warm (but do not overheat!) while you prepare the scallops.


About a pound of large sea scallops
Salt and black pepper

If the scallops are very thick, you can slice them in half to make equal rounds. 

Dry the scallops on paper towels, and season with salt and pepper. 

Heat a non-stick skillet and put in the scallops in a single layer (do not crowd). Cook on one side until they are golden, then turn and cook the other side.

Warm your plates. To serve, spoon a little of the warm beurre blanc on the plate, then arranged the scallop slices on the plate and add more sauce on top. Serve immediately.

I will confess that when I tasted the beurre blanc on its own I had my reservations. The sauce was tart and salty and pleasant enough, but it fell short of “exquisite.” But when I tasted the scallops and the beurre blanc together, I was blown away—the sweetness of the scallops paired beautifully with the flavors of the sauce. I must confess that I licked my plate.

Today I'll be in Bethesda, Maryland, with a gaggle of mystery writers, including a number of us from MLK. If you see us, stop and say hello! We'll be handing out recipes. And if I'm lucky, I may have a name for the Museum Mystery coming out in May--I hope!


  1. Yikes! A stick of butter for two servings?
    It better taste great!

    The advantage to the sea scallops is their size makes it a bit harder to overcook them. The little ones overcook easily and turn into chewy pencil eraser-like bits.