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And now, a lighter dish for the holiday season: grilled scallops

Grilled scallops with butter sauce.
Grilled scallops with butter sauce.

By now, you should have consumed all the turkey sandwiches, which for me, is the best part of Thanksgiving.

It’s what I call Thanksgiving on a roll – mayonnaise, leftover dressing and cranberry sauce, piled atop turkey held together with two slices of bread.

But now it’s simply time to move on. And, with that new little expansion of my belly, lighter food might be in order.

I will eat as much seafood as I can between now and those December holidays, and with the good harvest of sea scallops this year and prices being more reasonable, they seem like a good protein choice.

Plus, it’s never too cold in the North Carolina to grill something.

This recipe may cause you to stop short because the scallops actually never touch the grill grate. I’ve always been disappointed with grilled scallops. So much of their flavor comes from being nicely caramelized and even with a super-hot fire, and crosshatching the grill marks, you would only get this over part of the surface of the scallop.

Yet I do like the additional hint of smoke flavor that comes from a charcoal fire. My kamado grill (think Green Egg or Kamado Joe) allows me to take a different tact, which results in a superior result, giving the scallop a beautiful, tasty crust over the entire surface.

I use a cast iron or carbon steel pan that’s been preheated on the kamado to cook the scallops. The kamado’s excellent heat retention allows the pan to get smoking hot as the dome also captures all the smoke goodness from the charcoal.

No kamado? You can do the same method with a domed charcoal grill, like a Weber, or by throwing a chunk of wood on a gas grill. I’ve never tried this with a pellet grill, but in theory it should work.

This is also a great way to do shrimp and thin fillet fish like flounder. Scallops are sold both “dry” and “wet” and you need to forget you ever heard of wet pack. Repeat: Forget wet pack scallops.

Dry packs will brown and develop the sweetness that is outstanding. Look for scallops that are different shades of white and beige and look “sticky” to know you’re getting dry packs.

By the way, there may be a grillmaster at your house that would love finding a kamado grill under the tree.

Serve with

On the side: This time of the year, roasted Brussel sprouts balance the sweetness of the scallops. Why not roast some baby Yukon potatoes alongside the sprouts to complete the meal?

To drink: I love Sancerre with all types of shellfish, but the Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand are an excellent choice as well.

Tidewater “Grilled” Sea Scallops with Remoulade Sauce

Remoulade Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise, such as Duke’s

1 tablespoon capers, drained and minced

1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot

1 teaspoon tarragon or champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt

A good sprinkle of paprika

20-24 large sea scallops, all about the same thickness, roughly 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 pound, side muscle removed

Canola oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

To make the sauce: Add the mayonnaise, capers, pickle relish, tarragon, shallot, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and paprika into a blender to make the sauce. Pulse several times until well combined. You can make this up to 24 hours in advance, cover and refrigerate.

Brush each scallop on all sides with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Light a fire in your kamado or charcoal grill using your favorite method. For gas, preheat all burners on high and throw a chunk of wood on the cooking grate. After about 10 minutes place the grill rack in position, and place your pan on the grate, then close the lid, open the upper and lower dampers all the way. When the temperature reaches 500 degrees you are ready to grill. Even when grilling the lid should be closed as much as possible. Remember to have an oven mitt to handle the pan as it will be very hot. Adjust your dampers to maintain the heat.

Place the scallops in the pan, close the lid and cook until barely opaque in the center, about 2-3 minutes on one side and then turn and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. The scallops should feel firm to the touch but with some give. Don’t overcook the scallops. Throw the butter in the pan, then spoon the butter over the scallops as it melts.

Serve the sauce along with the scallops.

Yield: 4-6 servings

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