This recipe looks fancy, and I know seafood usually intimidates people- but I promise you, this is one of the easiest seafood recipes you can cook. The only hard part about this one is finding the perfect Bay Scallops and the shells to cook them in.
We visited the picturesque Cae San Blass last month and had such a wonderful time on this small stretch of All-American beach in Florida. Our days were filled with long walks on the baby powder-soft beaches, turtle watching at night and every afternoon revolved around what the next big meal was going to be.
We were told that this part of the Florida panhandle was know for is plentiful sweet Bay Scallops, and through a little asking around we found out we could easily charter a boat to go catch some ourselves!
Now I don’t know about you but my very competitive hunter gather instincts kick in to high gear every time I get an opportunity like this. Those little scallops had no idea what was about to hit them (or rather, grab them from the sea floor).
Below is a little video of what Bay Scallops look like swimming through their natural habitat.
That afternoon 6 of us hopped on to a boat captained by the novice scallop hunter and local fisherman Rusty. Rusty grew up in this part of the Florida bay and he had the deep tan and knowledge of the waters to prove it. He equipped us with some mesh bags and gave us a quick run down of what to look for once we got in the water.
He explained to us that the scallops can be camouflaged quite well nestled in between the shallow sea grass, but you need to look for the iridescent blue eyes peering back at you and that’s when you’ll know you’ve spotted one.
First of all, I don’t think I was even aware that scallops had eyes- then I come to find out that these little guys have about 40 iridescent blue eyeballs that will be staring at me! Yikes!
Nonetheless, I was still ready to dive in and determined to come back with the biggest and best catch.
Rusty anchored the boat in a nice shallow stretch of the bay, we all adjusted our snorkels, I took a deep breath, and dove in.
Once you spot the first few it gets a lot easier as you learn what to look for. Then after a while you begin to get quite comfortable floating out there in a bay face down spotting scallops; but then after a while longer you might remember – you’re pretty much in the open ocean and there might or might not be a good number of sharks around waiting for a human snack and a scallop appetizer- then you hurry to swim back to the boat…
Luckily for us the only injury among our group was the sunburn on my back from swimming face down all afternoon. But I didn’t mind, we had a cooler full of the sweet bay beauties and I was ready to make dinner!
The Florida Bay Scallop recreational harvest season is from July 1- September 24. If you don’t get to make it out to Florida for one of these fun scalloping excursions you can wait till Nantucket Bay scallops come in to season around November. Our friends at TJ’s Fish Market can get them in for you along with some shells for this recipe upon special request.
Butter Bay Scallops served in the shell
I was working with about 80 scallops (we had a great catch that day and had a lot of mouths to feed) For a smaller group you could easily half this recipe.
About 80 bay scallops (plus cleaned shells)
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (or plain unseasoned breadcrumbs)- divided
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs fresh thyme
1/2 tbs fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
Lemon wedges (for garnish)
How to Clean Fresh Bay Scallops
If you are lucky enough to catch your own scallops here’s what you need to do:
Scallops are much easier to work with than any other shellfish I’ve handled. They open up very easily once they’ve been set on ice for a few minutes.
You’ll want to just pry them the rest of the way open and inside you’ll see a lot of muck! Don’t let that freak you out. The bright white meat in the center is the only part you want to separate out and eat.
Using an Oyster knife you can easily separate the white muscle from the bottom of the shell and clean off the rest of the muck. Lightly rinse with water and set aside covered so they won’t dry out.
You will also need to thoroughly scrub and clean the scallop shells if you plan to use the same ones you plucked from the ocean. Scrub them hard with a brush and then boil them for a few minutes to sterilize. Make sure all of the grit from the water is gone and shells have dried before you work with them for this recipe.
Bay Scallops recipe
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
Place all of your cleaned scallops in a large bow, add the parmesan cheese, only 1/4 of a cup of breadcrumbs, thyme, parsley, and salt and pepper to your taste.
Toss well to combine.
Spoon 1-2 scallops on to each scallop shell and place the shells on a baking sheet.
Top each shell with a sprinkle more of the bread crumbs, then dot the top of each with a bit of cold butter.
Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs turn light golden brown.
They’re best eaten with a fresh spritz of lemon.