Scallops are hermaphrodites - when you see these fat creamy discs nestled against their roe sat prettily in the middle of their Venus inpsiring shell, the colour of that roe depends on the sex at the time they are caught. Orange for females and white for males - but it could have been different if they'd been caught at a different moment. Nature is strange.
Scallops are definitely a high end luxury food with a delicate sea scented flesh that acquires a dense texture when briefly cooked (and becomes inedible rubber when overdone). They need care at all stages which is rewarded many times over in the pleasure of the eating. Wild or farmed they grow on the sea bed and are best harvested by hand to ensure freshness and minimise the damage and detritus that comes with dredging.
Robust enough to marry with other ingredients, they are eaten as a delicacy in Asia with aromatics like chilli and ginger and in Europe more often with cream sauces or in delicate filo surprise packages. One of my favourite ways of eating them is inspired by a dish I had at Zilli Fish a few years ago where the scallops are threaded onto rosemary sticks interspersed with unsmoked bacon and then cooked fast in a griddle pan. The rosemary gives a very subtle perfume because they are cooked so briefly, the hot pan guarantees the shellfish will cook quickly, almost caramelising their sweetness and the hot salty crispy bits of bacon add a perfect counterfoil. I like gremolata with them because it adds texture and flavour without being a sauce - sometimes liquid adds nothing to a dish.
Rosemary Scallops with Gremolata
4 scallops per person
1 fresh rosemary branch per person
1 rasher of unsmoked bacon oyster per person, cut into 4
For the Gremolata
Leaves of a bunch of flat leaf parsley
Grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
1 green chilli, finely chopped (discard the seeds if you don't want it too hot)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Using a metal skewer poke a hole in the centre of a scallop and then thread it onto the rosemary stick, poke a hole into the centre of a piece of bacon and thread that onto the rosemary. Continue poking holes and alternating scallop and bacon, lacing four of each per stick. I then skewer the whole thing end to end with a metal skewer to aid turning. Heat a ridged grill pan till it is very hot - at least 10 minutes.
While the pan heats, make the gremolata by simply mixing all the ingredients together.
When the pan is really hot lay the skewers across the ridges. Let them cook for a couple of minutes till the bacon starts to catch a little and then turn them over, cook for another minute or two then give a quarter turn and a minute later another turn so all four sides have hit the heat. Cooking time in total should be about 5 minutes for good sized scallops. Remove from the pan, and serve with gremolata and salad and crusty bread for a wonderful supper.