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Sea Scallops, Bay Scallops,Calico Scallops: Facts and Recipes


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by ©Diana Viola

Scallops are one of our favorite foods.  We love them for their adaptability, their ease of preparation, for their nutritional content.  All of that and they are rich in omega three oil and low in calories.

There are three types of scallops - sea scallops, bay scallops and calico scallops.  They are all mollusks,   and it is the muscle that opens and shuts the shell that we eat with such delight.

We wanted to know something about scallops so we went to Co-op Seafood in Point Pleasant, NJ. A beach community, 'Point,' as the locals call it, offers a boardwalk, wide white beaches and our destination  - this small fishery on the dock where the fishing boats load up with ice, set out to sea and return with fresh scallops.

With the massive ice-making machine grinding in the background, George Johnson, a former fisherman and now owner of Co-op Seafood, gave us a tour of the dock, the ice house, the icy rooms where fresh fish is unloaded and readied for distribution.

"Scallops are perishable," George told us. "The crew that goes out for scallops shucks the scallops while still on the open sea, just as soon as they catch them." Shucking is done by hand, not by machine on these boats. Since we trust in hands, we liked the idea.

At the turn of the last century, explained George, there were no piers. The boats would edge as far into the shoreline as they could go, then be dragged up the sand by Clydesdale horses. The catch of the day (no specialties then) would be transferred to horse and wagon which would go through the town, blowing a whistle as it went, to inform the locals that a catch was available.

Times have changed. Co-op seafood proudly follows stringent EPA regulations to ensure the freshness and safety of all their catches. Though we carried handkerchiefs in case we needed to cover our noses, we never used them: cleanliness and freshness matter here and there are no smells in the storage rooms or packing rooms.

George talked of sea scallops, but some people think bay scallops are the sweetest of all. These are found in the coastal bays of the Northeast and are now being raised in farms. The scallop population was nearly exterminated in the 1980's by a toxic algae know as 'brown tide.' Serious efforts have been made to restore these scallops, though they haven't yet returned in great numbers and remain an expensive delicacy.

There are also calico scallops which are fished in warmer water off the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf coasts, as well as in Central and South America. Less sweet than the bay scallops, there are some unscrupulous fish stores that sell them as bay scallops. To shuck calico scallops, the shell must be steamed to loosen the muscle's grip on the shell. They are the tiniest of the scallops, and it is difficult to keep them tender.

George's advice to us regarding cooking scallops was to never overcook them, and to be sure that they are well dried before cooking, so the surface sears, rather than steams. Scallops are muscles and will toughen with overcooking. Look for scallops with a moist surface and a sweet, fresh smell and do what we did - go to a fishery and sniff before buying.  Try to get scallops that are labeled "dry." This means they haven't been treated with the preservative sodium tripolyphosphate. They are much more flavorful, better for you, and they seem to brown a little better.  Frozen scallops generally are of a good quality and available year-round.

Scallops with Vegetables & Quinoa

from The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno  book review



scallops with dried cranberries & bacon

from  I Love Bacon! book review

Here are a few recipes for you to try.

If you have a recipe of your own, please share it with us. You may e-mail us here:   InMamasKitchen


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Note: Diana Viola is a writer and the editor of inmamaskitchen.com click to meet her on the about us page

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©Diana Viola 2002