Treat yourself to sweet Seared Scallops with Roasted Beet Puree for a casual, elegant meal. Tender scallops with caramelized edges nestled in swirls of a vibrant, velvety sauce are irresistible. The best part is making them disappear!
Scallops give salmon and halibut, a couple of my other faves, some stiff competition when on a menu. They’re heralded for their sweet flavor and delicate texture. Here, we coupled simply seared scallops with an eye-catching, luscious roasted beet sauce. Turned out to be a culinary marriage made in heaven!
How to Treat the Beet
When it comes to beets, people fall into one of three camps. Love them. Hate them. Or, like them but don’t want to deal with them. “They’re dirty and stain everything.” While they are dirty (since they grow in dirt) and have intense pigment that stains, when treated properly they’re quite innocent and delicious. That being said, there are a few ways to approach beets. You can roast, boil, steam them, or even buy an already-cooked package of them at the grocery store. Decisions, decisions!
Though it requires a hot oven, roasting beets, rather than boiling or steaming, concentrates beets’ flavors and sugars, and brings out their sweeter side. It takes about 45-60 minutes for the beets to become tender in a 400°F oven. A few simple steps remove stress from cooking beets:
- Cut off the leaves, rinse and save for another use. Rinse the beets thoroughly. Remaining grit can turn sweet beets into muddy beets. No fun.
- Wear gloves! Protect your hands when handling cooked beets, unless you want to wash them a gazillion times. Do the same when handling anything coated in turmeric!
- Plastic cutting boards work best with beets. Layer parchment over wooden boards as they are porous, and stains are nearly impossible to remove. If you stain a marble board, go shopping. You’ll need a new one.
I found it easy enough to peel the roasted beets right over the foil-lined dish they baked in. Below shows the before and after of roasting. They don’t look as appealing with their roasted skin but what lies beneath is rather special.
Ta-dah!! You gotta love that color. These sweet and tender chunks are ready to puree into an awesome sauce with a little help from olive oil. sherry wine vinegar, honey, fresh tarragon, and of course, S&P. Emulsify all ingredients except the tarragon (you’ll whisk that in after) in a blender for 30-45 seconds until completely smooth and velvety.
Because curiosity often gets the best of me, I made the puree with packaged beets and with roasted beets. Could there really be much of a difference? I wanted to know because I totally understand what it’s like to be short on time, and the need to take a quicker route on occasion. Plus, I wanted to be prepared with an answer, should any of you ask the question!
Well, the verdict is (drumroll please) scroll down if you haven’t already done so. 🙂 When in a pinch, go with already-cooked beets. The puree still tastes great and you save yourself at least an hour. But if you have time, the richer flavor and brilliant color of using fresh, roasted beets reigns supreme (yep, the one on the right). As the saying goes, you get out of it, what you put into it. That certainly rings true here. The great news is either version can be made a couple days ahead, making your scallop searing night a breeze.
Now on to these ivory-pinkish puffs of beauty! Scallops are showstoppers when done right, and total flops when done wrong. Searing is quick yet tricky. These steps lead to success:
- Buy dry-packed scallops over wet-packed. Wet-packed are soaked in a bath of phosphates that add water-weight to make the scallops swell. Water-weight you ultimately pay for. Dry scallops are phosphate-free, caramelize beautifully, and have a naturally sweet taste, whereas “wet” scallops tend to have an unpalatable soapy flavor.
- Scallops should smell sweet and a little briny out of the package, not fishy.
- These are fairly large U-15 scallops, meaning 15 or less will make up a pound.
- Remove the little, innocent-looking muscle tabs (shown below). They’re tough when cooked and harbor grit and sand. Rather unpleasant. They peel off easily with your fingers.
- Rinse your scallops, drain, then pat dry. And, dry again, and again, and again. Sorry to hammer home a point, but if your scallops aren’t dry, dry, dry, you’ll be steaming them in a puddled pan rather than giving them a good sear. It doesn’t take long, just be diligent.
- A good sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper on the scallops is all you need.
Get a large, nonstick skillet hot over medium-high heat with a thin layer of olive oil, about one tablespoon. It’s best to work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. These babes take only one in a half to two minutes per side to cook. You’re looking for a caramelized crust on the top and bottom, and tender but not quite opaque in the center.
Serve scallops warm nestled in or drizzled with the beet puree. I used minced tarragon and pea shoots to garnish. Have fun plating!! It took all my might not to dive into the dish when photographing. I’d love to hear your favorite preparation for scallops, too! Drop a line in the comments below. Eat well, friends!!
Crisped edges and tender, delicate centers are all yours with these Seared Scallops with Roasted Beet Puree. Enjoy making them disappear!
- 10 ounces red beets, well rinsed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons tarragon, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 pounds sea scallops, muscle tabs removed, rinsed
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place whole beets in a foil-lined baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with more foil. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserts easily. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into chunks. Place beets, 3 tablespoons olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, and honey in a blender. Puree until smooth and velvety, 30-45 seconds. Whisk in tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside while searing scallops. (Puree can be made 2 days ahead. Let come to room temperature before serving.)
Thoroughly dry scallops with paper towels or a dishtowel. The scallops need to be dry, dry, dry. If they’re not dry, they will not sear. There will be a puddle in your pan instead, and the scallops will steam.
Season scallops with kosher salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1/3 of the scallops. You don't want to overcrowd the pan. Sear no more than 2 minutes on each side. Scallops should be caramelized and crusted on the outside, and tender and not quite opaque in the center. Place seared scallops on a paper towel-lined dish and tent with foil. Continue to sear scallops in 2 more batches. Serve scallops warm with roasted beet puree. Garnish with minced tarragon, pea shoots, or baby greens, if desired.