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Crispy chorizo gives this skillet scallop recipe a flavor boost

(Photos by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Nicola Davis for The Washington Post)
Pan-Fried Scallops With Crispy Chorizo
Total time:25 mins
Total time:25 mins
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Is everything better with crisped, cured chorizo? Of course not, but sometimes it can seem that way.

I’ve found that a bit of the spicy sausage tossed into savory dishes can mean the difference between fine and oh my, delicious. It also can be a go-to if your ingredients are too mild or not quite up to snuff.

Take this dish: Pan-Fried Scallops With Crispy Chorizo, a one-skillet recipe from “The Seafood Shack” by Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick. They own a food truck in Ullapool, a small fishing village on the northwest coast of Scotland with a deep fishing history.

Their cookbook features about 80 recipes for dishes served at the business, where the two friends cook whatever the freshest catch of the day might be.

About these bivalves, they wrote: “Our scallop diver will randomly pop his head in on any given day and say, ‘I’ve got some scallops for you,’ and within an hour they’ll be on the menu.”

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

If I had scallops that fresh, I’d probably be so excited, I’d lightly sear them in bit of butter, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and dig in. Unfortunately, I — and I bet you — usually cook with less than fresh-from-the-water catch. That’s where the chorizo comes in. (Here I’m talking about cured Spanish chorizo and not the fresh Mexican variety.)

This simple preparation calls for big scallops seared in hot fat. Then, chorizo, butter and herbs are added to pan and the scallops are basted as they caramelize on the outside. (The recipe calls for specific fresh herbs, but you can substitute your favorites or use just one herb.)

The resulting chorizo-enhanced sauce is so flavorful even non-scallop lovers would likely be delighted. I chose to balance the richness by serving it with steamed couscous, but you could choose rice or any favorite grain.

This idea of tossing just a little chorizo into dishes that need a little flavor boost is why I try to keep the sausage on hand. Nourish columnist Ellie Krieger often demonstrates this idea in her healthful recipes, such as her Slow-Roasted Fish With Chorizo and Chickpeas and her Grilled Clams With Garlicky Chorizo Drizzle. In both, just a few tablespoons ramp up the flavor.

Chorizo is the instant upgrade to kick up your burritos, rice, clams and more

Even those who eschew meat can enjoy the flavor, as Joe Yonan demonstrated in his Weeknight Vegetarian column with a recipe for Chorizo-Spiced Squash Tostadas. Check out his chorizo tofu, too. (Spanish chorizo can be spicy or sweet-ish, depending on how it is seasoned.)

If you want to try playing around with chorizo, you don’t need a specific recipe, just dice it, crisp it and add it to a salad, a quick blender marinara sauce, a plate of pasta, a baked potato and, of course, eggs of all kinds.

Pan-Fried Scallops with Crispy Chorizo

This recipe creates a rich buttery sauce, but, if you prefer, you can make it with olive oil.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 1 day.

NOTES: 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.

Do not substitute pearl, or Israeli, couscous, because it requires a different cooking method.

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For the couscous

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups plain couscous (see NOTES)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

For the scallops

  • 16 medium/large scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds) (see NOTES)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or another neutral oil
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces dry-cured chorizo, chopped small
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh curly parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill fronds and tender stems
  • Fine salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon, cut into 4 wedges, for serving

Step 1

Make the couscous: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the water and salt and stir briefly to combine. Bring the water to a boil, cover and remove the pan from the heat. Let sit until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 7 minutes. Uncover and fluff the couscous with a fork.

Step 2

Make the scallops: While the couscous cooks, remove the side muscle from each scallop by pulling it off and pat the scallops dry. This keeps them from spitting when added to the hot oil.

Step 3

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the scallops. They should sizzle when they hit the hot oil. Cook without moving them until they are seared to caramel color, about 1 minute. Lightly season with salt and pepper, flip and cook on the other side until browned, about 1 minute.

Step 4

Add the butter, chorizo, chives, parsley and dill, and as the butter starts to foam, baste the scallops for about 30 seconds. Keep your temperature at medium-high to help caramelize the scallops more as the butter melts, cooking 1 to 2 minutes, but adjusting the heat if the butter starts to burn. It’s okay if it browns and smells nutty.

Step 5

Spoon the couscous onto individual plates and top it with scallops and buttery chorizo sauce. Serve with lemon wedges.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (4 scallops, 1/2 cup couscous and about 1/4 cup sauce)

Calories: 792; Total Fat: 50 g; Saturated Fat: 24 g; Cholesterol: 136 mg; Sodium: 937 mg; Carbohydrates: 55 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 28 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “The Seafood Shack” by Kirsty Scobie and Fenella Renwick (Interlink Books, 2021).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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