Bacon wrapped scallops have become a holiday tradition in our family through an untraditional path. It all started years ago when my mom made the "mistake" of sending my dad out to pick up a simple grocery list of items to complete our holiday menu. It's known at our house that if you send dad to the store, you're guaranteed to get the items you requested, but you'll also get some expensive accompaniments that you didn't ask for, were not on sale, but nonetheless taste wonderful. These include, lobster, king crab legs, and shrimp, always when they're not on sale. This particular excursion yielded full market price scallops.
The next year one of us mentioned how nice it was to have bacon wrapped scallops as an hors d'oeuvre and the rest is history, sale prices be darned. Since then the recipe has morphed a bit, and as is typical with us here at Carman Brook Farm we've added a maple glaze that caramelizes to perfection by the time they're ready to be pulled from the oven. Savory and sweet like you read about.
Are scallops good for you?
Scallops have garnered a well regarded reputation as a healthy food, low in fat, high in protein, and loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health. Now, the logical next question is, what are the effects of layering this heart healthy food with bacon? Bacon has had a recent comeback as a health food, but the science has tempered this euphoria a bit. The recommendations from health professionals is that a few strips of bacon a day isn't going to negatively impact your life, however, moderation is key. You can get "healthier" bacon by looking at the ingredients and searching out ingredient lists with limited amounts of nitrites and nitrates, which are used in the curing process. The rule of thumb is this, the less ingredients, the better it is.
Fresh or frozen scallops?
In my opinion, fresh seafood of any type is the go-to choice, if you have the option. Our problem at the farm is that there aren't any ocean ports with fresh seafood markets nearby. Still, you can get pretty nice fare on ice at your local supermarket. I've also had great success with frozen scallops, the key to find the right kind are those that are marked "dry-packed". Many companies selling frozen scallops use a salt-brine to increase storability. However, the taste can be affected negatively when this packing method is used. Again, stick with the "dry-packed" frozen scallops, if you can.
When judging the quality of whatever scallops you end up choosing, there are a few indicators to be aware. First, and I would say this is most important, scallops should not smell fishy or funky. Next, make sure there isn't a feathery or slimy texture. Remember, dry-packed scallops, handled correctly, should look much the same as they did when they were frozen. Stick by these tips and you'll have some delicious scallops to complete your holiday menu.
How to defrost scallops?
Similar to other types of seafood, if you do decide to choose frozen scallops I recommend thawing them out in the refrigerator overnight. The Food and Drug Administration, in their article on seafood safety also recommends a cold water bath if you forget to pull them out of the freezer the day before. You just want to ensure that the scallops are in a waterproof bag before you submerge them in cold water.
How long do scallops last in the fridge?
The .gov Food Safety website presents a chart that scallops should be cooked or frozen within 3-10 days of being harvested. In talking to fishmongers of various seafood markets, I've been told impatiently to cook them that day or the day after. I've stuck by this advice and haven't had any bad experiences myself, so make of that what you will. Bottom line, once you defrost or purchase scallops, have a plan to cook them. I hope this recipe solves that problem.
Alright, lets get to the brass tacks and cook this thing. The marinade we use for this holiday dish is simple and adds to the already delicious pairing of bacon and scallops. The ingredients are simple, maple syrup (who saw that coming), lemon juice, minced garlic, soy sauce, and butter. I use a cast iron pan so I can caramelize the butter a bit and lock in the proper flavor.
First, add the butter and cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble & brown. Following this, add the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and squeeze the lemon juice in. After a minute or two, the sauce should thicken and it's ready to brush on. It really is that easy.
The sauce may appear a bit thin, but once you coat the scallops and cook them it thickens up and adds just enough flavor to enhance both the bacon and the scallops. I would recommend cutting the butter by a third if you really want a thick sauce from the start, or simmering for 10-15 minutes longer.
How to cook bacon wrapped scallops?
A part of me wanted to lead the blog with this section, or put it in all caps to get your attention. Arguably, this is the most important consideration and step once you secure your scallops. Scallops are a notoriously quick cooking food, which can work to your advantage so long as you know this and prepare. Bacon takes much longer to cook, and if you wrap raw bacon around your scallops and cook until it looks crispy and delicious, you'll have great tasting bacon around a rubbery and overcooked scallop. Bacon masks many imperfections, but this is a bridge too far.
My recommendation is to par cook the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven at 425 degrees F for 10-13 minutes. Cooking times vary depending on thickness, so pay attention. What you're looking for is bacon that is 2/3 to 3/4's of the way cooked depending on how you prefer your bacon at the end. I do 3/4's because I like nice crispy bacon.
Following this, measure and see how much of each slice of bacon is required to wrap around each scallop. If you're lucky, half a slice will do and you won't need to cook as much. Have no fear though, if you have a bunch of left over pieces because you bought large scallops, bacon stores great in the refrigerator, and you can have BLT's the next day.
The next step is to figure out how you're going to secure them together, I use toothpicks, but a skewer will do the job as well. I opt for the individual toothpicks because it saves me from mangling the beautiful looking scallop trying to remove the skewer when I go to plate them. Someone with more dexterous hands than me might see otherwise, though.
Once secured, brush them generously with the marinade and place them in the oven to bake at 425F for 12 minutes. You're looking for the scallops to go solid white in appearance from the translucent they started. Don't be afraid to test one at 12 minutes and see how they look inside, I can't help myself from doing this, I'm the one cooking so I make the rules.
Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Scallops Recipe
- 1 lb. of 20/30 count scallops
- 1 lb. package of bacon
- 3 tablespoons of Amber Rich Taste maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons of butter (salted or unsalted, your choice)
- Juice from half of a squeezed lemon, or 1 and a half tablespoons of juice
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 2 to 4 cloves of minced garlic (we always go heavy)
- Parsley for garnish.
- Par cook your bacon on a baking sheet at 425F for 10-13 minutes until about 75% cooked.
- Heat your pan to medium high heat, add your butter until it melts, stir gently for about 3-5 minutes until butter begins to brown.
- Add maple syrup, minced garlic, lemon, and soy sauce while stirring for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Pat your scallops dry gently in prep for wrapping them.
- Cut your par cooked bacon in half and get to work wrapping the scallops and securing with the toothpick.
- Arrange on a baking sheet with at least a half inch between each scallop.
- Generously coat the scallops with your prepared marinade.
- Bake at 425F for 12 minutes until scallops are solid white.
- Plate, and garnish with parsley and slices of lemon!