Prep time: 40 minutes
Active prep time: 40 minutes
Special equipment needed – Grill plate or cast-iron pan
Special skills needed – None
Serves 4 as a meal or 8 as an appetizer
Scallops in general are pretty easy to cook, but at least for me, they used to seem fancy and intimidating. When done correctly, scallops can be delicate and wonderful, with a crisp “taste of the sea” flavor. This recipe has bacon, which helps with texture and salt. It has few other ingredients, so you can really get a sense of the scallop. There are just a few things that can go wrong that you need to be aware of. The first thing that can ruin a good scallop dish happens at the store. Scallops are often treated with a phosphate solution that causes them to retain more water, increasing their weight. This is good for the seller, but tastes soapy and makes them difficult to cook while increasing the price. Look for scallops marked as “dry” or “chemical free”. You should also try to get fresh scallops, but frozen are OK. They often taste just as good, but they tend to get just a little shredded in the freezing/thawing process. The other thing that can mess up a good scallop is water. Wash your scallops the day you plan to use them and then pat them dry. I like to leave them out to air dry for up to 20 minutes just before I cook them. If you put them on the grill wet, it is hard to get a good sear on them. Scallops, especially treated ones, can sweat a milky liquid onto the grill. If this happens, the scallop will steam instead of sear. To save your scallops in this case, you can quickly pull them off the cooking surface and dry it then put them right back. Outside of those two odd characteristics, scallops are easy.
1 ½ lbs Sea scallops – If you have a choice, go with medium sized ones in the 20 to 30 per lb range
½ lb Thick cut bacon
1 Cup Mayonnaise
2-4 Tablespoons lime juice
Sriracha to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Cook bacon until it is about ½ way done. It should come off after about ½ of the fat is rendered and before it starts to get crispy or change color. It needs to be pliable to wrap the scallops. Set aside to cool.
Preheat either a large cast iron pan or a large grill plate on high heat. The hotter the better. While this is heating, take one last opportunity to dry your scallops. Mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, and sriracha in a small bowl. Go easy on the lime juice and Sriracha. You can always add more. Taste it and add more lime or Sriracha as needed. It is perfect when you are happy with the amount of heat. Keep in mind, the fat of the bacon and the buttery scallop will cut through the heat and the acid of the lime.
Wrap the scallops with the cooled bacon and pin with a toothpick. Make sure the bacon does not overlap the scallop. Trim as needed. The scallop needs to touch the cooking surface to sear properly, and it is the star of the show, so don't overwhelm it with bacon.
Put a small amount of your bacon grease on the surface. It should be almost dry, but you don’t want your scallops to stick. Cook these until you have a nice brown crust on the bottom of the scallop and it starts to become opaque on the bottom half. This should take about 4 minutes if everything is right, but can take up to 10 minutes depending on your heat, the size of the scallop, the amount of bacon, and how dry they are.
Flip only one time and cook until a crust develops on the other side. Be careful to scrape the pan and get under the scallop crust with your spatula. It is easy to rip this crust off when flipping and you can't do much to replace it without overcooking the scallop.
Basically, you cook these exactly like a filet mignon. I prefer them to be medium rare inside while some may like them more done. They can be safely eaten with just a quick sear, so do them any way you like. Just make sure the bacon is cooked to a safe temperature. Remove these from the heat, apply a dab of the aioli, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve. You can serve these with a side of vegetables, or a nice tomato basil soup for a well-balanced, but slightly decadent meal.