Skip to main content
Cooking tips and recipes, plus food news and views.
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Scallops with grapefruit-brown butter sauce are quick and luxurious

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post/Food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

This recipe comes from the Eat Voraciously newsletter. Sign up here to get one weeknight dinner recipe, tips for substitutions, techniques and more in your inbox Monday through Thursday.

One of our most valuable resources is our attention. It’s why we “pay” attention, as Arthur Miller wrote — it’s costly, and comes at the expense of our time. But it’s a crucial ingredient in any kitchen, and an underlying theme in Andy Baraghani’s new cookbook, “The Cook You Want to Be.”

I adore Baraghani’s approach to cooking, which emphasizes using your intuition and senses, feeling the food in your hands and tasting as you go — and not just because many of his go-to techniques and flavor combinations are clearly influenced by his Iranian palate. (Hello to all of the lemon and fresh herbs!)

Of the many recipes in his book that caught my eye, the one I think we should make tonight is scallops with grapefruit-brown butter. It’s a simple dish that takes just about 20 minutes to prepare, but will require your full attention.

This is because scallops take very little time to cook, and you really don’t want to overcook them, lest they turn into rubbery pucks.

Attention is warranted, too, because high-quality, dry-packed* scallops are not inexpensive. With many of us looking for ways to tighten our budgets, scallops may seem like a luxury. But it’s also a time of great unrest and deep sadness. When things seem so off, so distressing, I like to spend a little extra — money and attention — on myself. Maybe you do, too?

“Scallops are one of those food items that I’ve always thought of as fancy but never trendy,” Baraghani told me by phone. “When I feel like I can afford them, I order them at a restaurant — that’s the move. It feels luxurious.”

For this dish, you’ll pat 16 large scallops dry and sear them in a hot pan. Baraghani instructs you to put the scallops into the pan in a clockwise rotation. It’s a trick he picked up in his years of working in restaurants, including Estela in New York and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. This makes it easier to remember which one you put in first, and therefore which ones need to be flipped first.

Simply seared, they create a fond, or those tasty browned bits of protein and natural sugars stuck to the bottom of the pan. Start to deglaze the pan by adding some butter, which you’ll let melt and then brown. You have to watch this the entire time, to be sure you don’t burn it. Then, it’s time to get punchy.

“Scallops beg to be paired with acid,” Baraghani told me, “and grapefruit is one of the most complex acids, where it has this sweet tanginess and bitterness at once.”

Whisk in some fresh grapefruit juice. As the citrus juice reduces, its bitterness will soften. Within minutes, the sauce will turn silky and glossy — a negligee, barely there but utterly bewitching, transparent and sexy.

Plate the scallops, draping the sauce over and around each one. Then garnish the dish with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of chile flakes. “I love radishes with butter, so radishes with a butter-and-citrus sauce? Easy,” Baraghani says.

*NOTE: Dry-packed scallops are superior to salt water-packed scallops because they’re generally fresher and haven’t been treated with any chemicals meant to make them look plumper. Wet-packed scallops don’t brown as well in the pan, and tend to release a lot of liquid while cooking.

Get the recipe: Scallops With Grapefruit Brown Butter