Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Caramelized Scallops on Rosemary Skewers

Last week Mitch and I went to California and stayed at my family's vineyard in the hills between Napa and Sonoma valleys (take a look some more of my pictures. Be jealous, or just come with me next year.). I had bought some scallops from Sunshine Grocery the day before, and I had some prosciutto and basil oil and the fridge, so I decided to combine those elements into a dish to serve alongside the chilled tomato soup I posted about the other day. But something was missing. A quick foray into the rock garden outside the kitchen gave me the answer--rosemary.

The view from the pool at Bald Mountain (the vineyard)
I learned to use rosemary sprigs as skewers during my time at The Herbfarm, and I have loved them ever since. They look elegant as well as imparting a delicate but not overpowering rosemary scent to whatever is on them. And there is the added benefit of crunchy amazing fried rosemary once you have eaten whatever was on the skewer. It's like the savory, more practical, and more delicious version of chocolate straws.

What you need to know about scallops: 
Bay scallops, sea scallops, day boat scallops, diver scallops, dry scallops, wet-packed scallops... It can be confusing to select scallops if you don't know what all that means. So here is the first key distinction: bay scallops are small and sea scallops are big. Both are good, but they shine in different types of dishes. Bay scallops tend to be slightly sweeter, so they work very well in ceviche or other raw dishes, as well as with some pastas. Sea scallops are meatier and have a more pronounced flavor. They are the ones you want to sear (bay scallops would overcook quickly and be nearly impossible to handle because of their size).

Sea scallops are often referred to as diver scallops or day-boat scallops. Diver means that divers collect them as opposed to a boat just using a net on the sea floor, which is bad for the sea environment. Day-boat means that the boat goes out and comes in in one day, therefore the scallops may be fresher (but no guarantees on how long it took them after the boat docked to get the scallops to the store). It's not easy to tell just from "diver" and "day-boat" which scallops to choose. In part it's just a style thing--"day-boat" scallops are very in right now.

The last distinction is between dry and wet packed. You want dry. What wet-packed means is that they are soaked in a phosphate solution as a preservative (which also implies that they are less fresh). The solution turns the scallops mushy and over-saturated with liquid, making them less pleasing to eat and much more difficult to sear. One more (obvious) point--always try to buy fresh seafood over frozen.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Caramelized Scallops on Rosemary Skewers
makes 12 scallop skewers (serves 6 as hors d'ouevres or 3 as part of a main course)

6 slices (very thinly sliced) prosciutto, about 3 ounces
12 large sea scallops, about 1 pound
12 woody rosemary sprigs, about 3 or 4 inches long
3 tablespoons olive oil
basil oil (see previous post for recipe) or balsamic reduction, for serving

Prep: Carefully tear each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise, making 12 long strips. Don't worry if a few come apart--you can just layer them on each other. Prepare the rosemary skewers by stripping the leaves off the bottom 2 inches of each rosemary sprig. If the ends are rough, cut the tips off on a bias to create sharp ends.

Skewering: Take each scallop, and wrap one strip of prosciutto tightly around the outside. Take the rosemary skewer and push it through the wrapped scallop, securing the prosciutto in place.

Searing: Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat (avoid the temptation to use a nonstick pan--it will not let the scallops caramelize as well). When the oil barely begins to smoke, use tongs to lower the scallops into the pan. let the rosemary skewers either sit in the oil or go up the edge of the pan (uncooked rosemary is prettier, but it tastes delicious when it fries). Make sure to space them out well enough, and if you make a double recipe consider doing two batches. If they are too close together, liquid will not evaporate and they will braise instead of sear. After at least 3 minutes, flip them over and sear for another 3 minutes on the other side, or until both sides are well browned.

Serving: Serve with dabs of basil oil or balsamic reduction.


  1. Wow, great recipe! I am still getting to know scallops and this looks amazing.

    Great to meet you yesterday - see you Sunday!

  2. scallops are probably my favorite seafood right now! where do you go to buy fresh ones in st. louis?

  3. Thanks, Stef! See you Sunday!

    thedelishdish: I usually buy seafood at Bob's seafood, but you can never be sure what they will have or when they have scallops unless you call ahead. Good luck!

  4. yeah that's where we usually go as well but they've been out several times & the scallops aren't as big as they used to be. it's prob the best bet & next time we'll def call ahead! thanks!

  5. I actually bought some good scallops at Straub's in CWE the other day as well, if you want another option! They're expensive, but usually good quality even on seafood.

  6. Good recipe. Scallops and bacon are a classic, the prosciutto sounds even better.

    Bob's is great for seafood but it *is* a bummer that you never quite know what they'll have when you show up. Best all around seafood market in St. Louis, in my opinion, is Whole Foods. Be aware, though, that some of their seafood is frozen. (Not a bad thing - frozen seafood is usually flash frozen right after being caught, so it tastes "fresher" than most fresh. Have to do a slow thaw, though, so it doesn't turn mushy. Anyway, I like the recipe. Thanks.