Thursday, April 19, 2012


In the epochal New York Times Cook Book of 1961, Craig titled this recipe just “broiled scallops,” so it was easy to let slip by.  He did add, as a subhead, “Scallops in vermouth is an unusual and good idea.”

And very easy indeed.  Also a dish that we can make even better than Craig and Pierre could, as will be explained below.

Craig’s recipe calls for the following ingredients for four people:

1½ pounds scallops
½ cup dry vermouth
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons minced parsley

You just put it all together, let it marinate in the fridge for “several hours,” and then put the whole business up close under a hot broiler.  One tip: Make sure the garlic is chopped really, really fine, because even small chunks spoil the texture of the dish.  And please don’t overcook the scallops.  They’re not going to brown.

The most important thing we have that Craig may or may not have had but very few of his readers could have had is really good scallops.  There’s an episode in my book The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat in which Craig goes to the Fulton Fish Market at four o’clock in the morning with the owners of the superb Parisian seafood restaurant Le Duc, Jean and Paul Minchelli, and they watch a boat unloading fifteen thousand pounds of “fresh” scallops after eleven days at sea.  The Minchelli brothers were almost sick.  But that’s how Americans got their scallops in 1974.

Now, however, we can get Atlantic sea scallops harvested by divers—plump, glistening (the scallops, not the divers), and kept in pristine condition both in shipping and in the market.  If we’re really lucky, we can get tiny bay scallops, of which the very best come from Nantucket Sound in a regrettably very brief season.

(You should avoid cheap dredge-harvested scallops, which have been kept “fresh” with preservatives.  The dredging damages the ocean floor, anyhow.  Also to be shunned are the bogus bay scallops that come from Southern, warm waters, and the farmed ones from China, which are no good at all.  Trust in one’s fishmonger is crucial.)

Our day has two other advantages over Craig’s.  One is that we can get much better olive oil than he could, and this is a place to use it.  Usually good olive oil doesn’t belong in cooking, but these scallops spend so little time under the broiler that the oil is not harmed.  Our other advantage is our vermouth.  Back in Craig’s day, most people kept vermouth for months unrefrigerated, and they didn’t even know how disgusting it was because they’d never tasted it the way it’s supposed to taste.  They also couldn’t get excellent vermouth.  Try Dolin Dry (not the blanc, which is too sweet).  It’s a fine apéritif as well, and makes a hell of a martini (no dryer than four to one, please, and do I have to say I’m talking about gin, not vodka?).

A tablespoon per person of the marinade seems like enough to serve, though some people may want more—it sops up tasty. 


Pinotgraves said...

And your wine pairing, sir? What does CC say? A Sancerre to be really safe? A dry Riesling? Vouvray?

Tom McNamee said...

I like the sound of a dry Vouvray. Maybe even better, a Savennières—with a little more body to stand up to the garlic?