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December 10, 2012

December Fish of the Month: Farmed Scallops

Your seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of our oceans and lakes—so make sure they’re positive ones! Every month, Shedd’s Right Bite team highlights a sustainable seafood item as our Fish of the Month. December’s pick is farmed scallops, and we have an elegant holiday starter dish, seared scallops with braised fennel, apple and leeks.

Scallops are known as “bivalve mollusks” because of their two rigid scalloped shells that are hinged together. The soft white muscle that opens and closes the shell is what humans (and sea otters, octopuses and marine fishes) consume. Our monthly recipe recommends farmed scallops, which are on Shedd’s best choice list for sustainability because they are farmed using environmentally friendly practices. 

Farmed scallops—as well as related mussels, oysters and clams—are generally very environmentally sound. Because they do not have to be fed fishmeal or fish oil, farmed scallops require little natural resources to grow. In fact, they’re filter-feeders, which means that they eat tiny particles like algae and plankton in the water for their nourishment. Farmed scallops can actually remove excess nutrients from the surrounding waters, helping to improve the local water quality.

Farmed scallops are available year round and are often much smaller than their wild counterparts. When working with scallops, make sure to pair them with subtle flavors so as not to overpower the scallops’ sweet, delicate taste. Happy cooking!


Seared scallops with braised fennel, apple and leeks
Serves 4

8 to 10 farmed scallops
Salt and black pepper, to taste 
2 tablespoons butter
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced 
1 apple, thinly sliced 
1 leek, quartered and sliced (white part only)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Fennel fronds for garnish

  1. Season scallops lightly with salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Sear scallops 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and cover.
  4. In a heavy skillet, heat remaining butter over medium-low heat. Sauté fennel, apple and leeks, seasoning with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until fennel is transparent (about six minutes).
  5. Add wine to the pan; allow alcohol to cook off for about a minute.
  6. Add broth and red pepper flakes; bring sauce to a simmer. Stir in butter and  adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
  7. Add scallops to pan to warm. Serve immediately.

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