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.