Scallops searing in a pan. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

For local seafood evangelist Togue Braun, now is certainly the most wonderful time of the year. The holidays are great and all, but she’s more excited by the fact that ’tis the season for Maine sea scallops.

Braun runs Bremen-based Downeast Dayboat and works with Maine fishermen to harvest and ship Maine scallops around the country, most of the time within 24 hours of the wild mollusks being pulled from the ocean’s floor and shucked at sea. Most of the fishermen she works with swap out their boat’s summertime lobster gear for wintertime scallop draggers to diversify their year-round income stream.

“My primary hope for the 2020-21 season is for safety,” said Braun, taking the opportunity to honor the four Maine fishermen lost at sea late last month when the Portland-based FV/Emmy Rose sank 20 miles northeast of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where 30-knot winds were whipping up 6- to 8-foot waves.

Braun also mentioned fishing captain Arnold “Joe” Nickerson IV, a 60-year-old fisherman from Arundel, and 44-year-old crew member Christopher Pinkham of Boothbay Harbor, who died in January when Nickerson’s boat, the F/V Hayley Ann, sank 50 miles southeast of Portland.

Her second hope is that Maine scallops will still catch a good market price as restaurant sales – restaurants are where 90 percent of seafood in America is typically consumed – continue to be crippled by the pandemic. Braun has worked with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association to create a central listing of Maine seafood suppliers who can ship all kinds of seafood to anyone on your list.

Maine’s scallop fishery comprises day boat fishermen who use small, independently owned boats to collect a highly managed quota of scallops within three miles of the state’s coastline between early December and late April. This season, as was the case last season, dayboat fishermen can harvest up to 15 gallons of shucked scallops per day when they are harvested along most of Maine’s coast and up to 10 gallons per day when they are harvested in the Cobscook Bay area.

Dayboat fishermen go in and out of port in a single day as opposed to larger “trip boats” that go out for a week or longer to pull up 95 percent of the other scallops sold in the United States. The day-long turnaround Maine scallop fishermen offer can translate to a fresher product hitting your dinner plate.

The large trip boats mostly store shucked scallops in mesh bags on ice. Overtime, the scallops take on water and plump unnaturally. Additionally, some commercial dealers treat them with a sodium tripolyphosphate solution as a preservative. You pay for this added liquid, most of which is released from the scallop when you cook it. Maine dayboat scallops are stored and sold “dry”, so the ticket price may be higher (expected to retail around $22/pound this year), but you’re also getting more actual scallop for your money, said Braun.

“Maine scallops have long enjoyed a high profile in the restaurant industry. They are the seafood analogy to Maine blueberries. Traditionally, there is always a market for high-quality, seasonal ingredients,” said Jen Levin, CEO of Gulf of Maine Sashimi, a Portland-based seafood company that taps fishermen who use a Japanese technique called ike jime to kill fish at sea to ensure pristine quality. Levin also taps dayboat fisherman for scallops so she can offer them alongside sustainably caught cod, cusk, haddock, monkfish and pollock.

Give the gift of Maine scallops this holiday season. They are easy to cook, they are high quality, and the quality and the purchase price will help Maine fishermen weather the pandemic to fish another year. #GiveMaineSeafood

 

Pan-seared scallops with a spicy clementine juice reduction. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Seared Scallops with Spicy Clementine Sauce

The richness of the scallops and the heat in the sauce in this recipe work together to stretch a pound of Maine scallops to satisfy four eaters.

Serves 4

1 pound fresh scallops, feet removed

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon canola, grapeseed or safflower oil

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 teaspoon chopped fresh red chili pepper

1 cup clementine juice

1 teaspoon clementine zest

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon cold butter

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley

 

Use a towel to pat the scallops dry. Season scallops with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops to the skillet in a single layer and cook until seared on one side, about two minutes. Flip and sear the second side of each scallop. Transfer scallops to a warm platter.

Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Add the chili pepper, clementine juice and zest, and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced to half and becomes syrupy, about 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the pat of cold butter to enrich the sauce.

Drizzle sauce on top of scallops and top with chopped cilantro or parsley. Serve immediately.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: