The first time I made these, it was because one of my friends really, really wanted to make something from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook with me. I picked the caramelized scallops because I've always wanted to learn how to make those beautiful seared scallops you always see TV and it was probably one of the simplest recipes in the book.
Keller's recipe uses size U7 scallops, which means there are 7 scallops per pound. Those are some ridiculously big scallops. I asked for the 7 largest scallops at my local grocery store, and they only weighed a little more than half a pound. =(
To account for the differences in size, I adapted his recipe by decreasing the brine and cooking time slightly. I also changed the ratio of hot to cold water since I found that I had a hard time getting the salt to dissolve in the amount of hot water specified. If you can find U7 scallops, bravo. For the rest of us sad souls, here's how to make normal sized caramelized scallops.
Thomas Keller's Caramelized Scallops (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup hot water
1 cold water
12 of the largest sea scallops you can find (about a pound)
About 2 tablespoons clarified butter
1/2 lemon (optional)
Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the salt with the hot water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water and refrigerate until cold.
Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 8 minutes (no longer, or the scallops may become too salty). Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels.
Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.)
Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook the scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.) Cook, without moving the scallops, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side.
Transfer the scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.
Last Year: Brown Butter Vinaigrette Lobster Buns