Perfectly cooked scallops can be difficult to achieve at home, but the appeal of their delicate, almost creamy centers encased in golden, nutty exteriors is undeniable. We wanted to bring this luxury to our weeknight dinner table; we also wanted to make our scallops into a complete meal by pairing them with a fresh, satisfying salad. First, we cooked hearty, nutty barley in the Dutch oven in plenty of water for an easy salad base. The keys to perfect scallops are speed and heat—the quicker a good sear develops, the less likely the centers are to overcook. Since moisture prevents browning, we blotted the scallops with dish towels and let them drain for a few minutes so they were as dry as possible. Meanwhile, we crisped a few slices of chopped bacon in the pot; the rendered fat was a perfect cooking medium for the scallops. We then seared the scallops in two batches to prevent crowding and steaming. The Dutch oven’s even, intense heat produced gorgeously browned crusts on the scallops in just a few minutes. We finished the salad with sweet apple, crunchy fennel, lightly bitter frisée, and a bright cider vinegar–based dressing. We recommend buying “dry” scallops, which don’t have chemical additives and taste better than “wet.” Dry scallops will look ivory or pinkish; wet scallops are bright white. Do not substitute hulled, hull-less, quick-cooking, or presteamed barley (read the ingredient list on the package to determine this) in this recipe.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Total Time: 1 Hour
- 1 cup pearled barley
- Salt and pepper
- 6 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1½ pounds large sea scallops, tendons removed
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 fennel bulb, 3 tablespoons fronds chopped coarse, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
- 1 Fuji or Honeycrisp apple, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 head frisée (6 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces
- Lemon wedges
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add barley and 1 tablespoon salt, return to boil, and cook until barley is tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Drain barley and set aside. Wipe pot clean with paper towels.
- Cook bacon in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel–lined plate; set aside for serving.
- Meanwhile, place scallops in rimmed baking sheet lined with clean dish towel. Place second clean dish towel on top of scallops and press gently on towel to blot liquid. Let scallops sit at room temperature, covered with towel, for 10 minutes.
- Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat fat left in pot over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip scallops and continue to cook, undisturbed, until well browned on second side, about 2 minutes. Transfer scallops to serving platter and tent with aluminum foil. Repeat with remaining scallops; transfer to platter.
- Whisk oil, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add barley, fennel and fennel fronds, apple, and frisée and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with reserved bacon. Serve scallops with salad and lemon wedges.