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Seared scallops with a bright mint-and-pea sauce is like spring on a plate

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Seared Scallops With Peas, Mint and Shallots
Total time:35 mins
Servings:4
Total time:35 mins
Servings:4

Do you ever have the late-to-the-party feeling when it comes to food? Everyone, except you, seems to have tried and fallen in love with this or that combo of flavors.

That was my experience with the combination of mint and peas. So many wax rhapsodic about this combo this time of year when the two ingredients are readily available fresh, and everyone wants to transition from winter’s heavy browns to spring’s light greens.

Peas please! Shelling, snow and snap are at their peak

Still, something about the two together seemed discordant to me — the mild, slightly pasty pea with the cool-on-the-tongue fresh mint. When I came across a five-ingredient recipe for Scallops With Green Peas, Mint and Shallots, I decided to see if I could jump on the bandwagon.

The recipe, which comes together in about 30 minutes, calls for blanched peas to be blended with fresh mint to create a sauce for the seared scallops. The original pea-mint sauce preparation called for water. I tried it that way, but wanted something a little richer, so I substituted heavy cream and added just a pinch of nutmeg as well. Either will work. Add between 1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on how thick you want your puree to be.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

I used frozen shelled peas, but if you’re fortunate enough to come across freshly harvested peas at a farmers market, snap those up.

It’s true this dish gets a flavor boost from crisped bacon and sauteed shallots, but I’ve found the minty pea puree alone adds a springtime brightness to almost any seared or broiled protein, such as these scallops or chicken or pork.

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Try it and see if this little sauce, which comes together in minutes, will stay in your repertoire for years to come.

Note: When buying scallops, check labels and ask your fishmonger for dry scallops, which means fresh ones that are not chemically treated; they will sear properly. Wet scallops are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, a chemical that causes the scallops to expel water when cooked and can prevent a proper sear.

Storage: Leftover scallops can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

How to cook scallops: A simple searing recipe with an irresistible sauce


Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups green peas (12 to 14 ounces), fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • Fine sea salt or table salt
  • Finely ground black pepper
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large shallot (about 2 ounces), minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds dry, large sea scallops (about 20 total), the tough musle on the side removed (see Note)

Step 1

In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the peas until bright green and soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and set aside 1/2 cup of the peas; transfer the rest to a blender. Blend, drizzling in 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, until thick and creamy. Add the fresh mint leaves, a large pinch of salt, black pepper and nutmeg and blend until completely smooth and spoonable, scraping down the sides of the pitcher, as needed. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Transfer the puree to a small saucepan and set aside.


Step 2

Line a plate with a paper towel and place it near the stove. In a large, well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and it is just starting to crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove the bacon to the prepared plate and pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the fat into a small bowl; reserve the fat.


Step 3

Add the shallot to the skillet and saute for 30 seconds. Add the reserved peas and bacon. Cook for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to a bowl, capturing as many bits as you can.


Step 4

Raise the heat to medium-high, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom and sides. When the fat has just started smoking, pat the scallops dry and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, place the scallops in the pan, making sure they do not touch.


Step 5

Cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms of the scallops are dark golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, carefully turn each scallop and let the other side cook until golden, an additional 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining scallops, adding more bacon fat as needed.


Step 6

Just before serving, set the saucepan of pea puree over low heat and warm it, stirring once or twice, about 2 minutes.

To serve, spoon the pea puree onto four plates, top each with 4 or 5 scallops and sprinkle with the bacon mixture and fresh mint leaves, if using.


Nutrition Information

Calories: 389; Total Fat: 23 g; Saturated Fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 94 mg; Sodium: 838 mg; Carbohydrates: 19 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 27 g.


Adapted from “Simple Beautiful Food” by Amanda Frederickson (Ten Speed Press, 2020).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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