Insanely easy and fabulously good.
Step 1: Prepare Scallops
Go hunt or gather some nice sea scallops. These are the big ones; you don't want the little bay scallops for this recipe.
Sea scallops tend to be expensive, so make sure you either have enough for your group or are prepared to preemptively divvy them up and provide enough other food to keep people happy. They taste fantastic when cooked properly, and I could easily eat a pound of these without help. However, we only have a pound of frozen scallops from Trader Joe's, so there's a big salad too.
Thaw the scallops if necessary. Give your scallops a quick cold water rinse, then lay them out on paper towels to dry, turning them over to dry both sides. You can leave them here for a bit if you need to; just don't forget about them.
Step 2: Prepare Seasoning
Mix ground pepper into either flour or starch, creating a nice mix as shown below. You can also use chili powder or other ground spices, but I prefer a simple mix to bring out that great scallop flavor without overshadowing it.
We usually use flour, but did a parallel run with potato starch today. The results were quite similar, but we slightly preferred the starch-dipped scallops. This preference might disappear in a double-blind experiment, but we can't be bothered when hungry.
Step 3: A Bit of Prep: Juice and Plate
Juice a lime, two if they're small. If you don't have a lime use a fresh lemon, fresh orange, or some bottled orange juice. Bottled lemon/lime juice is NOT an adequate replacement for the real thing, at least in this dish. (Ignore the rest of the items in the picture below- they're from another Instructable.)
Set the juice aside near the stove, ready for quick access after the scallops are cooked.
Meanwhile, put a couple layers of paper towels over a large plate. You'll be draining the cooked scallops on this shortly.
Step 4: Dredge & Send to Pan
Dredge the scallops in the flour/pepper mix, making sure that all surfaces are covered. You should get a very thin white coating all over the scallop- this is why you wan them dry.
Meanwhile, heat your pan (any flat-bottomed pan, regular or non-stick, will be fine) and give it a layer of canola or another high-heat oil. Make sure the oil is hot enough to sizzle before adding the scallops.
Work quickly, dredging scallops and adding them to the hot oiled pan.
Step 5: Pan-fry
The scallops should start sizzling madly as you put them in the pan. Quickly fill the rest of the pan, then get your tongs out to flip and check the first ones for browning.
As soon as you begin to see browning on the underside of the scallops, quickly flip them all over. This really should take about a minute on each side, maximum.
By the time you're done flipping all the scallops, it's almost time to remove the first few from the pan.
Step 6: Remove Scallops
Yank the scallops out of the pan, and set them on the paper towel-lined plate to cool. You may still see an uncooked band in the middle of the scallop, but this will cook through as the scallops rest.
Check the pan for adequate oil coverage, then dredge more scallops and repeat the process. Since cooking the scallops takes 2-3 minutes, doing them in batches isn't much of a hardship. It's certainly worth it to make sure the scallops come out nicely.
Cook the rest of the scallops, and remove the pan from heat when done.
Step 7: Make Sauce
Deglaze the still-hot pan with the lime juice. Just dump it into the pan (beware of steam burns!) and stir vigorously for a few seconds to melt off all the tasty brown bits (fond). Before the lime juice can cook down and caramelize or burn, use a heat-safe silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the nice brown goo into a small bowl or ramekin.
Add some sesame oil, the sweetener of your choice (I like agave nectar for its mild flavor and ease in dissolving), and some salt and pepper. You should have a tasty, thick, dark brown syrup.
Options: use lemon or orange juice to deglaze the pan. Add some cayenne pepper or Sriracha (rooster) sauce to give the sauce a spicier kick.
Step 8: Serve
Scallops can disappear quickly, so make sure you've divided them equally to avoid poaching.
If you're being stylish, arrange a serving of scallops then drizzle them with the lime/sesame sauce. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on top would look nice, but we forgot until after the photoshoot.
For buffets, dot each scallop with sauce and insert a toothpick.
Serve with a fruity salad with orange/sesame vinaigrette. (recipe soon)