Pan-Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Baby Leeks

Pan-Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Baby Leeks Recipe

I’ve come across a couple of fantastic revelations here that I want to tell you about. First, scoring the scallops on one side in a criss-cross fashion causes them to open out when seared, like a beautiful flower, and when they’re drizzled with a little dressing or sauce they take in all that flavor. Second, the subtle use of five-spice powder with any seafood is a real pleasure.–Jamie Oliver

LC Singing Scallops Note

We all know that when you hold a seashell to your ear, you can hear the sound of the ocean. But we bet you didn’t know that scallops, too, capture that soothing sound while they’re still in the shell. Or so we’re told. As Bryn Williams explains in The Perfect Ingredient, “Some folks hold that scallops really do sing. Fishermen of legend have sworn that they have heard their song. Science may tell us that’s merely the whooshing sound they make as they propel themselves along, but I prefer the singing version of the story myself!” We’re with Williams. What can we say, we’re romantics. We’re also fools for sea scallops.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Asparagus and Baby Leeks Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 16 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 12 baby leeks (or, for a more pungent allium presence, scallions)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small handful fresh marjoram or summer savory sprigs, leaves plucked from the stems
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ginormous sea scallops or 16 to 20 smaller sea scallops
  • 2 pinches five-spice powder (optional)
  • Butter (optional)

Directions

  • 1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add your asparagus and leeks and cook just until just barely tender, a couple of minutes at most. Drain and pat dry.
  • 2. Get a large skillet hot and then drizzle it with just enough olive oil to coat the surface. Sizzle up your asparagus and leeks, working in batches so there’s but a single layer of vegetables, until lightly colored on all sides. Transfer the asparagus and leeks to a large bowl. Rip half your herbs over the top, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and gently toss. Set aside.
  • 3. Get the same skillet nice and hot. Score one side of each scallop in a criss-cross fashion, slicing almost but not quite halfway through each scallop. Season the scallops on both sides with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder, if desired. Carefully drizzle the skillet with just enough olive oil to coat the surface. Add the scallops, scored side down, and sear, untouched, until they’re golden brown and easily come away from the skillet when you tug at them with tongs, about 2 minutes. (As with the vegetables, you may need to work in batches to avoid crowding the scallops, which would cause them to steam.) Flip the scallops over, add the rest of your herbs, and cook to the desired doneness, about 1 minute more.
  • 4. Divide the asparagus and leeks among 4 plates. Top each portion of veggies with some of the scallops. If a rich pan sauce is desired, add 2 good pats of butter and the juice of ½ the lemon to the skillet, shake the pan about until the butter melts and, if desired, turns slightly brown, and then dribble a little of the pan sauce onto each plate. Cut the remaining lemon into wedges and place a wedge on each plate. Serve immediately.
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Testers Choice

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Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Jun 18, 2012

I have been making this Jamie Oliver recipe for several years–I had been at a friend’s house and seen the Jamie Oliver cookbook and asked if I could write down this recipe. I’d always been afraid of making scallops, as it sounded like a hard thing to do well, but I wanted to try it, so this was my first scallop recipe–and it is always wonderful. I have used marjoram and summer savory and both work great, although I’ve also used sage and basil (according to what I find fresh at the market) and still loved the outcome. I hadn’t made this in a while, so I made it again last night. Excellent, as always!

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Jun 18, 2012

Gosh, I love it when I test a recipe that’s perfect for a weeknight–something that’s simple and easy yet looks and tastes wonderful. I served this over a bed of rice noodles, and it was a perfect combination. The asparagus was cooked to perfection, the aroma of the leeks and herbs was infused throughout the whole dish, and the scallops were juicy, tender, and tasty.

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Jun 18, 2012

Scallops, asparagus, and leeks are a combination that beg to be savored! The herbs add a wonderful, summery flavor and really bring the whole combination together. I couldn’t find “baby” leeks, but the smallest ones I found were quite fine, and only needed an extra minute or two of blanching. My asparagus spears were rather thin, so I added more to each plate. With fresh vegetables like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra. I couldn’t decide on marjoram or summer savory, so I used equal portions of both. I also think that a touch of tarragon would be great in this. The five-spice was also a nice touch, and I would not consider the butter optional. I served this with a nice roasted onion focaccia to allow us to soak up the wonderful pan juices on the plate.

Testers Choice
M.K. Morgan

Jun 18, 2012

This was very good, in spite of me. I bought what looked like very thin leeks–they turned out to be leeks that had a tough inedible stalk in the center. But the outer leaves were fine, and certainly baby leeks would be much better. Scoring the scallops made them very pretty and the five-spice powder added a lovely flavor.

Testers Choice
Linda B.

Jun 18, 2012

Simple, easy, and delicious. Next time I might try subbing scallions for the leeks since they are a little easier to find. And I thought the butter was not really necessary, so it could be made even lighter. Great for springtime or any time!

Comments
Comments
  1. David Leite says:

    We made this scallop and asparagus dish this part weekend, and both of us found it fantastic. It was warm out, so we dashed it off and sat outside in the fading light. If we didn’t know we had a winner on our hands, we would have then: Devil Cat didn’t stop screeching until he got some scallops. The herbs were lovely and I wouldn’t make the butter optional. At all.

    Although The One made this, what I liked about it, as I watched him shimmy and shake to Adele on the stereo, was how easy it all came together. This recipe screams MIS EN PLACE and don’t think otherwise. Make sure everything, and I mean everything, is at the ready before you heat the pan. Then it’s bing, bang, bong. He didn’t give enough warning, so it was all hands on deck as I ran to set the table, pour the water, and open the wine.

    This recipe, as you can see, is from Jamie Oliver, the aptly named Naked Chef. Food is simple, delicious, unfussy. If Oliver is naked then The One is in a cosseted tux with tails and white gloves. He is not one for simply tossing a dish together. No. Things must be artfully arranged and carefully placed. So, he made a rather simple fleur-de-lis of the dish. It took him more time to arrange than to cook. (See below.)

    My only complaint, and his, too–was portion size. “Ginormous” is a relative and frustratingly unspecific term. Perhaps if they were ginormous-er, I wouldn’t have been so hungry afterwards. Luckily, a salad of our garden’s first lettuce helped a bit. Let me clarify: only a bit.

    Scallops with Asparagus and Leeks

  2. This scallop recipe looks fantastic! What a gorgeous presentation!

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Thank you Amber, we think so too. That was exactly the response we were hoping to inspire.

  3. Jackie B-P says:

    I made this recipe this week after picking up incredibly fresh scallops at our local farmers market. What a great recipe! Because our local asparagus is already gone, I substituted zucchini and summer squash for the asparagus. I didn’t cook the squash first, I just sauteed it with the scallions. I also paired it with brown rice tossed with fresh herbs, lemon, and butter.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Jackie B-P, that sounds splendid. Love when a home cook makes a recipe their own. You can bet I’ll be doing the same, slipping in squash in place of the asparagus. Many thanks for the inspiration. And yes, there is nothing, nothing like a superbly fresh sea scallop.

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