Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Debunking the fake scallops story
A few months back, a fish peddler called on us at the bookstore and asked if we wanted to buy scallops. I'm generally leery of the barrage of offerings presented to us every few hours that we are subjected to as shopkeepers open to the public, and I was annoyed when Diane said yes to a kilo of scallops media luna.
First of all, I had no idea where they came from or how fresh they were, etc. According to the guy lugging the cooler, they were still scooting around the briny depths of the sea of cortez just moments ago. Of course they were from clean waters and not from the harbors, how dare I even think so! And second of all, they were the most pricey scallops I had ever bought in Mexico. And third, they were not the plump, rosy diver/dayboat scallops I was used to finding up in the north bay area of San Francisco, either. These were somewhat hard and shaped like a kidney bean or half moon.
You bought some pretty expensive pseudo scallops, chump! Yet they didn't look like they were cut with a cookie cutter...hmmn
When we got them home, I was skeptical to say the least but agreed to cook them. I used to be a pretty fair cook in my day and scallops need a hot fast sear or they will turn rubbery. To prepare them, I lightly sprinkled coarse salt and some freshly ground pepper. I got the saute pan nearly smoking hot and added some oil and shallots. Less than 20 seconds per side and I slid them out onto a serving platter.
They had a nice flavor, yes, but they were tough, rubbery and nowhere near what I was expecting. Live and learn. Diane, please don't ever buy from someone like that again.
I mentioned our scallop fiasco to the chef at Las Tres Vírgenes, the restaurant where I bake my breads and pastries. She got very excited and proceeded to tell me all about the scallops I had bought, how wonderful they were and how expensive. She then proceeded to tell me that the best way to prepare them is in ceviche, since they are so firm, they don't like to have conventional cooking techniques applied to them. Just a squeeze of lime juice, some salt and diced green chilis. Live and learn.
Didn't think much of it after that until, in a casual conversation, a fellow buying bread mentioned the fake scallops that abound in La Paz. That's when I decided to get to the bottom of the fake scallops story.
Follow the links to two sites I found while researching scallops and particularly local scallops from the sea of cortez. I found that there are indeed, small round scallops, lions paw, half moon scallops and kidney bean shaped scallops. If someone was trying to pawn off skate wing as scallops, the hapless foreigner that bought them deserves what he gets.
- The Bread Guy
- La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
- Before gaining control of my life, I created pastries for some cool places in California: San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, Brix Restaurant in Napa and The Lodge in Sonoma. Now I am the chef/owner of Pan D' Les bakery in La Paz. My personal favorite is the Multigrano loaf, full of crunchy seeds and a nice chewy crust.