When I first read about velveting scallops in Grace Young’s fabulous cookbook, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, the promise of ‘luxuriously smooth and dense’ scallops made me try the technique immediately. And I have been velveting scallops ever since. I’ve found velveting – coating the scallops in a mixture of egg white, cornstarch, oil and (occasionally) wine, then blanching them in water—to be a fabulous safeguard against overcooking. It also allows me to extend the use of fresh scallops by an extra couple of days.
I’ve found there’s no end of ways to use velveted scallops. There are stir-fries, of course, but also chowders (I just use 10 to 12 scallops in my clam chowder recipe to make scallop chowder), pasta sauces (ditto for fra diavolo sauce), and risottos (add them at the end of your favorite recipe). I now even save the cooking liquid to use as a broth base for all of the above.
Here’s the basic recipe/technique I use for up to 2 lb. 1 kg. velveting scallops.
1 egg white
1 Tbs. white wine, rice wine (for Asian dishes), hard cider, or beer
1 Tbs. oil
1 heaping Tbs. cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
Whisk together the egg white white wine, and oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch and salt. Cut each scallop into halves, thirds or fourths (depending on what you’re making place them in a medium bowl. Toss the scallops with enough of the velvet mixture to coat well. Refrigerate/marinate ½ hour, or overnight.
Bring 4 to 6 cups of water to a bare simmer in a medium saucepan. Drain the scallops (but do not rinse them), and discard the velveting slurry. Drop the scallops in the barely simmering water, and cook 20 to 30 seconds, or until the scallops turn opaque. Transfer the blanched scallops to a paper towel-lined plate to drain before using. The velveted scallops will keep in the fridge for three days.
Strain the scallop cooking water, and set aside. Use the way you would a seafood bouillon, if desired. (You should have about 3 cups/700 ml.)