Cal Stamenov at the 2010 Chefs' Holidays at The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite

Scallop Smarts From Marinus Chef Cal Stamenov

The 25th annual Chefs' Holidays — a monthlong culinary event at The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite — started off with a bang when chef Cal Stamenov whetted a watchful audience's pre-lunch appetite by demonstrating how to make caramelized diver scallops and crème brûlée crepes.

Chef Cal, who is the culinary director at the posh Carmel Valley spot Bernardus Lodge and the executive chef at its Marinus restaurant, wowed the crowd with a stunning scallop presentation (which, incidentally, stole the show at the event's later gala dinner). He assured us that scallops are just as easy to prepare at home, as long as you keep a few important things in mind. See the chef's key pointers — and more photos! — after the jump.

  • Generally speaking, scallops freeze well, so buying them frozen is a viable option. Many varieties, however, have been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) to achieve a plump appearance. Avoid those in favor of chemical-free scallops.
  • Diver scallops, which have been hand-picked by divers, are the priciest, but they are also the largest in size and disrupt the aquatic ecosystem the least.
  • Dayboat scallops refer to shellfish that have been harvested by daytime boats that return to harbor at day's end. This is in contrast to to less-than-fresh fishing counterparts that may spend days out at sea, dredging scallops with nets that scour the ocean bed.
  • Buy the freshest scallops possible; they'll be safe to eat when properly prepared medium rare, and will develop more color and caramelization in the pan.
  • Be sure to bring scallops (or any protein, for that matter) to room temperature prior to cooking. Otherwise, the meat won't be as tender.
  • Instead of adding oil to the pan, rub scallops with quality olive oil to add another layer of flavor, as well as to prevent sticking.
  • Don't crowd the pan with too many scallops; it will prevent the seafood from properly caramelizing.
  • Since seafood has a naturally briny flavor, salt less than when cooking with meat.

What are your tips and tricks for making scallops at home?

Dayboat Scallop

Caramelized Crepes

Backyard view

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The Ahwahnee's Great Lounge

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