easy balsamic glazed dry bay scallops

Fall break 2009 arrives, but we have no vacation plans in our single income state. So maybe a really good kickoff dinner is in order. First a warm up at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute with the Jane Campion afternoon movie Bright Star, where we see a touching unconsummated love affair destroyed by Britain's former class realities, which sent one of their greatest poets to an early death in Rome because he was born into the wrong class: John Keats, dead at 25. Okay, off to find the food.

Bob had scallops on his mind, and pesto was already on the menu since we had recently harvested the end of season basil from the in-laws and one container was waiting in the fridge. But we were going to do it right, with potatoes and green beans. We make it to the Ardmore Farmer's market before Friday closing time and although the dry bay scallops are 17 bucks a pound, we splurge and ask for 3/4 lb: 8 big ones. Trader Joe's next door supplies the potatoes and frozen ready to use French string beans for the pasta. bob recalls a balsamic vinegar association with scallops, so back at home ani googles a scallop solution involving a quick white wine reduction, and bob suggests a drizzling with that truffled balsamic glaze from our favorite Rome food store Castroni, which we had hit just before our summer flight home not so long before.

Back at home our pasta reserves are beginning to be exhausted but we had some sprouted whole wheat papardelle from Trader Joe's, only 8 oz but then with the potatoes and green beans, that would be enough. Ani preps and deals with the scallops, while bob does the easy part of boiling the pasta with the beans, and the small potatoes separately with the skins, although halved. Cutting the finished potatoes into small chunks ends up removing most of the skins which get pushed down by the sharp Santoku knife blade. This part was a bit tedious. But definitely better than trying to peel them first.

The meal comes together with our last bottle of white wine in our wine refrigerator: a Pinot Grigio from the PA State Store system. Income reduction seems to have dampened our access to exceptional but reasonably priced wines in Princeton. Useless to remember the terrific 3 or 4 dollar wines in Rome. The scallops look great on the plate. The pesto pot is calling. We had had a light lunch at the student center, so there was the added incentive of hunger by our 7:30 sit down. Not all of our improvisations are exceptional, but this was a terrific pairing, and in less than 30 minutes. Who knows how much we would have paid for this in a local restaurant, where bob's enormous helping of the pasta followed up by a second hit would never have been possible. Another successful kitchen experience to remember.


3/4 lb = 8 large dry bay scallops
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
1 T butter (except no substitute!)
1/4 c approximately of decent white wine
a drizzling of truffled balsamic glaze, if you are so lucky [try a dense = thick high quality balsamic vinegar from Italy if not]


  1. Wash (rinse not soak) and dry the scallops (dry with paper towels) and salt and pepper them on both sides.
  2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a high class stainless steel pan (we used a Caphalon nonstick even though explicitly warned against nonstick), until sizzling hot, and brown the scallops on both sides, making sure they are cooked through but not rubbery. About 2 minutes on the first side, then 1 minute on the flipped side. Remove the scallops to a plate. All this and what follows is done at high heat. And if you have a cheap stainless, this searing business might now work out so well.
  3. Add the butter first and stir it around in the ugly but flavorful brown scallop bit pan droppings left behind. When the butter is melted pour in the white wine to pan and reduce down for a few minutes till the stuff thickens a bit, stirring up the residuals at first.
  4. Pour the pourable part of what is in the pan over the plated scallops and drizzle lightly with your balsamic ingredient if you've got it. Finely chopped parsley is another possible optional garnish. Note that some ugly stuff will remain in the pan as you drain its liquid component over the scallops.
  5. Serve immediately.


  1. Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Saved from being converted into a fitness center by Juliette Goodfriend, a woman with a mission which has enriched our lives. We are producer couple members.
  2. Bright Star, a film by Jane Campion, about the short adult life of John Keats, and his love affair with Fanny Brawne. Catch it on Netflix when it comes out on DVD since it probably won't come to a theater near you. Not mainstream enough.
  3. Dry bay scallops are apparently the best, not waterlogged like the bay scallops that are not specified as "dry." A food TV fact we had picked up along the way. Which is why ani did the google search on the keywords "dry scallop recipes". The third hit (first if you drop the "s") was a food blogger (use real butter) tale with beautiful food porn shots of the scallops as they progressed through the detailed recipe: pan-seared scallops. Along with the admonition never to try this with ordinary scallops, which are injected with evil stuff and won't work well with this approach. Since this was a blog, we had to leave a comment:
    "I clearly see why in fall 2009 a google search on the keywords "dry scallop recipe" returns this as the first hit. The food porn photos alone make the visit worthwhile, but indeed this is a terrific and easy way to do scallops with a "wow" result. We gave it a try but since we had picked up a new Italian product "truffle flavored balsamic glaze" at Castroni's in Rome a couple months earlier, we drizzled that over the plated scallops as well at the end (the photos show instead scattered parsley for garnish, not mentioned in the recipe). Just the right finishing touch to kick it up a knotch BAM! (sorry for the emerilism). Thanks for sharing this with us."
  4. Truffle flavored balsamic glaze but the label says Gourmet Glaze based of balsamic vinegar of Modena with truffle, product of Italy: http://www.collinatoscana.it. A new product we were lucky to find in 2009, and had tried first to kick up our hot asparagus potato salad.
  5. Castroni, via Cola di Rienzo, Roma. Extraordinary food source.
  6. We served this with our pesto combo which has its own story. They seemed to go well with each other.
  7. Illustrations available.
scallopsbg.htm: 10-oct-2009 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]