It’s my dad’s birthday today! My brother and I are patting each other on the back because we enrolled him in a Beer of the Month club for his birthday this year and saved
ourselves him from getting something like socks or his fourth Roger Federer cap. His two great loves are beer and tennis (well, and Chinese food), so part of me is wondering how we didn’t think of Beer of the Month before, but most of me is just super glad for the friends who enrolled B2 and me in Salsa of the Month for our wedding gift, because (1) it is totally awesome to get salsa on your doorstep and (2) I definitely nabbed that idea from them.
These miso-glazed scallops aren’t technically part of my dad’s birthday, but they’re inspired by one of his favorite dishes, so I thought it was only fitting to post them today. My dad is a big sharer, the kind of person who gives Christmas gifts in November because he can’t wait to reveal them, and when he really loves something he’s eating, he tries to coax everyone else into having some instead of eating it himself (when he doesn’t love it so much, he tucks into it silently without foisting it on the rest of us; this is, um, probably the exact opposite of what I do). Whenever he orders miso-glazed black cod — which is whenever he sees it on the menu — he loves it so much that it all ends up on our plates, with just a few flakes of fish left on his own, and I always wonder whether he even got any. So when ALDI was generous enough to send me a package of their jumbo scallops, another tender, mild seafood and another one of my dad’s favorite foods, I thought I’d try his much-loved miso glaze on them and see how it worked.
They were, in a word, awesome. I always figured that miso-glazed black cod would be maddeningly difficult to get right, and scallops even more so. But every black cod recipe I came across led to this one from Nobu, which seemed oddly easy, and as it turns out, I think making it with scallops is even easier. The scallops only need 15 minutes or so to marinate, rather than the several days ideal for the fish, and since scallops cook so quickly, the cooking time goes down from an already quick 15 or so minutes to just barely five. On top of that, this method works wonderfully for both dry and wet scallops, because the marinade is a good substitute for the brine America’s Test Kitchen recommends to eliminate the occasional aftertaste you might get from wet scallops. The result of it all is an impossibly easy yet festive holiday dinner — deeply savory but gently sweet caramelization from the combination of miso, mirin, sake, and a touch of sugar (seriously, that’s it), crusted on tender, juicy break-apart scallops, for something that tastes way fancier than it really is. And the added bonus is that I can count ‘em up next time I serve it to a generous person like my dad, and make sure he actually gets some.
Happy birthday to my greatest dad, giver of bites of black cod and Thanksgiving gifts! Wishing we were celebrating together, but on the upside, I ate all these scallops for you, so it was like you were here and gave them all to me anyway.
These scallops are my new favorite thing for a fancy but simple dinner. The miso is salty-sweet with a nutty, fermented undertone, and mixed with mirin and sake, it turns into a deeply rich and savory marinade that goes perfectly with a caramelized sugar crust on the scallops. I served them with Steph’s incredible miso mashed potatoes and some garlicky sauteed greens. Inspired by Nobu Matsuhisa.
- 2 tbsp white miso (I actually used a darker miso because that was what I had, shh don’t tell, but also feel free to do that too)
- 3 tbsp mirin, divided
- 3 tbsp sake, divided (seasoned rice vinegar also works)
- 2 tbsp sugar, divided
- 1 lb scallops (dry is ideal, but wet will work just fine, especially with the sugar-crust method here; see Notes)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2–3 tbsp sliced scallions (about 1 scallion)
- To thaw the scallops, place them in a sealed container lined with paper towels and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Alternatively, submerge the package in cold water and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Once thawed, pat the scallops dry and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
- In a medium bowl large enough to hold the scallops, whisk together the miso, 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 tablespoons sake, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add the scallops and marinate for 10-15 minutes.
- Once the scallops have marinated, place the remaining sugar in a small, shallow bowl. Remove each scallop from the miso marinade and shake to remove as much marinade as possible, then dip one side of the scallop in the sugar and remove to the same plate you used earlier. Reserve the marinade to cook into a sauce.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until very hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place the scallops, sugar-side down, in a single layer on the skillet. Let cook, without touching, for 2 minutes. The bottoms should be well-browned and caramelized. Using a fish spatula, loosen and flip each scallop. Cook for 1-2 minutes longer, then remove to a plate.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon mirin and 1 tablespoon sake to the pan, then add the reserved marinade. Cook for about 30-60 seconds, scraping up any brown bits from the scallops, until sauce darkens slightly. Pour over scallops as desired, garnish with sliced scallions, and enjoy immediately.
Dry scallops are always the better choice if you can find them, since they’re not soaked in water or treated with preservatives and therefore have the purest and freshest flavor. But because wet scallops are what I most often come across, this method has been tweaked for them — the sugar crust will help caramelize the bottoms even with the moisture that will release from the scallops as they cook. If using dry scallops, feel free to skip dipping the scallops in sugar and add another teaspoon or two of sugar directly into the marinade instead.