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SERIOUSLY SIMPLE: Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Tomato Vodka Sauce: A simple dinner party dish

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Media Services on

Coquilles Saint-Jacques, the French name for sea scallops, is also the name of a classic method of preparation in which the scallops are cooked in a white wine cream sauce and then placed in a ramekin, where they are dusted with cheese and breadcrumbs and gratineed. While studying at the Cordon Bleu, I prepared the classic version and won high praise for the creaminess of the sauce and for not overcooking the scallops. I wondered how the scallops could still show off their amazing, succulent flavor without being quite so heavy.

Here I have adapted that original Cordon Bleu dish into a tomato-flavored version. I love to make this sophisticated recipe for a quick dinner for family or friends. The tangy tomato sauce, with just a touch of vodka flavor, complements the seared, crisped scallops. The larger sea scallops work best for this recipe because they will sear evenly and won't overcook as quickly as the bay scallops.

Sea scallops have a meaty texture and are wonderful for quickly sauteing. Remember that all scallops are not the same. Look for dry-packed scallops that are chemical-free. Sometimes you can find fresh diver scallops that are usually very large and hand-selected by the diver. Avoid wet-packed scallops that are preserved by a chemical solution. You can also make this dish with the smaller bay variety, but you will have to quickly cook the tiny scallops so that they stay tender and don't become rubbery.

The scallops should be sauteed just before serving. I like to serve this with a pasta like orzo or fusilli with fresh herbs and petite peas. What to drink? Select a Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon and a touch of oak, or an Alsatian Pinot Gris. For a red, try a lighter-bodied yet flavorful Pinot Noir.

The clever cook could:

--Use small bay scallops and serve as an appetizer; cook the scallops for a minute on each side. Serve in a small scallop shell or ramekin.

--Omit 1 pound scallops and add 1 pound medium peeled and deveined shrimp.

--Add basil pesto instead of the sun-dried tomato pesto.

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Tomato Vodka Sauce

Serves 6.


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