Pan-seared scallops with creamed fennel and leeks

Coquilles St.-Jacques, or sea scallops, are one of the delicious pleasures of the late fall French table. The season  for their fishery opens on October 1st and continues through the holidays, when they feature on many menus, especially for New Years Eve.  Careful management of the fisheries has meant an abundant supply (Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch rates Atlantic Sea Scallops as “Best Choice”) so there is no environmental guilt in enjoying them.  2o23 is expected to be a record year.

In this dish, the rich, sweet scallops are quickly seared with butter, and served with a creamy sauce enhanced by a reduction flavored by white wine and the scallop roe and trim.


Pan seared sea scallops with creamed fennel and leeks


  • 6 large fresh Normandy sea scallops, with roe and connective nerve
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 leek
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oil


Serves 2   Scallops are very rich, so 3-4 per person will be plenty


  1.  Prepare the scallops:  remove the roe and the small hard nerve that runs on one side of the scallop.  Put these in a small sauce pan.  Dry the scallops on a sheet of paper, set aside.
  2. To the saucepan, add the white wine, bay leaf, coriander, fennel frond and black peppercorns.  Bring to a boil, then reduce over high heat until only about 2 T liquid remains.  Set aside.
  3. While the wine is reducing, prepare the vegetables:  trim the fennel bulb to remove any discolored parts, then quarter, remove the core and shred finely.  Split the leek, wash carefully then slice finely in half moons.
  4. In a shallow, heavy pan, heat 1 T vegetable oil and 2 T butter until just foamy.  Add the vegetables, season well with salt and pepper, then lower the heat, cover and let cook gently until tender. The vegetables should not color!
  5. Add the cream to the pan, then strain the reduced wine into the pan through a fine mesh sieve. Add 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to  a simmer and continue cooking until the cream is sauce consistency.
  6. Heat 1 t vegetable oil and 2 T butter in a heavy skillet until foamy. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, then place into the pan with one face down.  Cook over medium heat until nicely browned, about 1 minute. Turn to the other face, baste with butter and continue cooking until nicely browned. Note, scallops should not be overcooked or they will be rubbery. The exterior should be nicely browned, the interior just barely warm. 
  7. Spoon the creamed vegetables into the center of 2 plates.  Top with the cooked scallops. Serve immediately.  Boiled rice makes a nice accompaniment, or just lots of crispy baguette.



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