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Scallops Are Bivalves

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Fish and Seafood

Winter Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(4) pages: 9 to 11


There are three types of scallops, and all are bivalves. They are sea scallops, bay scallops, and Calico scallops. All have thin shells, thinner than those of clams or oysters, and their shapes are easily recognizable. They resemble those seen on Shell Oil gas station illustrations.

These sea creatures have about fifty blue or turquoise eyes found on their inner shells near the front edges. These creatures do not dig in the sand beneath them as clams do, they just swim about and jump, too, in their habitats near the bottom where they live.

In the US, most are harvested in three locations in or near Bedford MA, Cape May NJ, and Norfolk VA. Most can be purchased at or near these places or other places where fish and seafood are sold. We must advise that not all are scallops, some are simply circles cut out of white-colored fish flesh.

It is illegal to sell them so labeled, but there are unscrupulous merchants who do cut them and sell them mislabeled as such. They make lots of money so doing, and it is difficult to tell when they are raw, easier when they are cooked, and when not attached to the bottom half of their shell. The texture is very different as to how they break apart. Real scallops do so straight up and down, fake ones do so as fish flakes, on an angle. If you are suspicious, ask the merchant to us a spoon and see how they come apart.

Real scallops break apart mostly straight up and down, not on a slope as fish does when cooked. If suspicious, when buying yours, ask the merchant to break one apart gently, and look closely as he or she does that. Scallops swim freely but are anchored, that is their muscle. That is what the flesh is called, attached to the bottom half of the shell. If just sitting on it, be very suspicious!

The FDA advises these shellfish should not be soaked in any liquid at their point of sale. But what cannot be tested is their weight, usually three and a half ounces or ninety calories, and that they usually have seventeen grams of protein, are low in sodium, and have just one percent fat.

In the US, Calico scallops are only harvested in the Virginia location. They and bay scallops are small, their diameter usually less than an inch but can be twice that. Sea scallops are about two inches in diameter but can be three times that size. Calico scallops are the smallest, can be the darkest, and are best dry-packed. They are lowest in moisture, and can have annual rings, though most are young and do not when they are sold. Bay and Calico scallops can have male and female organs, but at the age most are harvested, they do not, or they have been removed.

Sea scallops, are Plactopecten magellanicus most others are Argopectin irradiens. The former can live up to thirty years, but more commonly are a year or two before being harvested. All are best dry-packed, but rarely are when sold fresh. Most people do not know that bay scallops are the official shell fish of New York State; we did not until doing research for this article.

There are many recipes for scallops, almost all adored by the Chinese. They say they are delicious. Our favorite is to cook them empty shells as seen on this page. Bay and Calico scallops made in pigeon egg shells make a phenomenal presentation, but effort to do so using the recipe we love to look at does take lots of time. Truth be told, we only did so once and with a friend who had more patience than we did to empty the shells of their raw content and then fill them as the recipe required.

One other comment, love to use dried scallops called conpoy, and shred them into very thin sticks vertical to where they sit and use these to flavor other foods.

We hope you enjoy the recipes that follow. You can use any scallop variety, but do need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Scallops, Fruit, and Vegetables
Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound fresh sea scallops, each cut horizontally in half making two thin circles
5 asparagus, each cut in one-inch pieces, and on an angle
3 thin carrots, peeled and cut in strips similar as the asparagus
5 slices fresh ginger, peeled and cut in thin strips
1 cup drained canned lychees, each cut in half
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander

Preparation:

1. Heat a wok or fry pan, add the scallops and stir-fry them then remove and set them aside after just one minute. Discard any oil and add and stir-fry the carrots, for one minute, then add the asparagus and stir-fry one minute more.
2. Mix cornstarch with three Tablespoons cold water, stir and bring to the boil, and when the sauce thickens, add the lychees.
3. Put all in a pre-heated bowl, toss the coriander garnish on top, and serve.

Conpoy with Vegetables
Ingredients:

3 conpoy soaked overnight
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup string beans, simmered for two minutes in the broth or water, then angle cut in one-inch lengths, the ends discarded if not young
5 water chestnuts, cut in thin sliced circles
1 stalk celery, angle-cut in half-inch pieces, each cut in half the long way
1/4 red pepper, seeded, then angle-cut in half-inch strips
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and mashed
3 slices fresh ginger, peeled and slivered
1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Preparation:

1. Prepare conpoy simmering it in chicken broth for half an hour, then pull it apart into thin strips.
2. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add the oil, they stir-fry the four vegetables for one minute, then stir in half the conpoy stir for two minutes, and put in a pre-heated bowl.
3. Sprinkle the rest of the conpoy on top, and serve.

Stuffed Scallops
Ingredients:

1/4 pound scallops, each cut in half as two circles
5 slices fresh peeled ginger
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon water chestnut powder
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
dash ground white pepper
1/4 pound shrimp, shells and veins discarded, then the shrimp minced
1 Tablespoon cornstarch, divided
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon rendered chicken fat
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 sprigs fresh coriander, coarsely minced

Preparation:

1. Marinate scallop halves in mixture of ginger, rice wine, water chestnut powder, sesame oil, and ground white pepper for half an hour.
2. Mix minced shrimp with half the cornstarch, all the salt and sugar, and all the chicken fat, and egg white. Stuff this mixture between two scallop halves and gently press them together.
3. Dust with the rest of the cornstarch and set aside for half an hour or until starch seems wet.
4. Heat a wok or fry-pan, add oil, and fry the scallop sandwich until lightly colored on both sides, then drain them on paper towels.
5. Put these sandwiches on a pre-heated platter, and serve.

Scallops and Eggs
Ingredients:

10 egg shells their tops cut off so they look like cups, the eggs separated into two bowls
1 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt, divided
3 Tablespoons fresh spinach, stems discarded, leaves blanched half minute, then minced, excess water squeezed out and discarded
3 fresh sea scallops, steamed for three minutes, cut into thin strips, then minced
1 conpoy, soaked for an hour in warm water, then torn in thin strips, then minced
3 medium shrimp, shells and veins discarded, then minced
3 Tablespoons minced cooked chicken breast
1 large shiitake mushroom, stem discarded, cap finely minced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon rendered chicken fat
1 cup raw rice set in a bowl to hold uncooked egg shells, and set them in it
½ cup cooked bean thread noodles

Preparation:

1. Carefully rinse and drain egg shells and trim them evenly around their tops.
2. Strain and discard chalaza (the thick white part of the eggs) and mix with the salt.
3. Lightly beat egg yolks and set them aside.
4. Mix minced scallops and conpoy, the shrimp, chicken breast, and the mushrooms, and set this aside.
5. Mix pepper, rendered chicken fat, and cornstarch mixture and the scallop mixture and fill empty egg shells halfway, then steam them over boiling water for fifteen minutes, then cool them.
6. Mix egg yolks, drained spinach, and put into the halfway filled egg shells and steam five more minutes.
7. Boil cornstarch mixture, then peel and discard egg shells, and put them on a platter, the bean threads around them.
8. Next mix ground pepper, chicken fat, and cornstarch and pour this over the eggs, then serve.

                                                                                                                                                       
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