Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scallops in Lemon-Caper Sauce

Sept. 2009 022 This is a popular recipe that’s frequently found in many cookbooks in one form or another and for good reason. It’s simple to make and it tastes great. At this point, I’ve made it so many times, I don’t bother measuring anything. I’ve made it using various kinds of seafood – shrimp, flounder, tilapia, and even skate wings. It works equally great with chicken, veal or thinly sliced pork too. When you’re making it with scallops, however, follow the directions below in order to get that golden brown crust you see in restaurants. I’m repeating the technique I posted in the past with a scallop, peppers and mushrooms recipe, but here the ingredients are simply olive oil, butter, capers, lemon juice, white wine and parsley – a classic piccata sauce. If you like scallops, this one is a sure hit. 

This recipe is for two people but can easily be doubled or tripled. Read through the entire recipe and have ingredients prepared and ready to go next to the stove. You don't want to be squeezing lemons or opening a bottle of wine while the scallops are simmering. The whole recipe takes less than 15 minutes from start to finish.

Sea Scallops in Lemon-Caper Sauce

For printer-friendly recipe, click here

1/2 - 3/4 lb. large sea scallops (about six to eight scallops – this is important – don’t try this with small bay scallops or you won’t be able to sear them properly without turning them to rubber)

1/4 cup olive oil
flour for dredging

3 T. olive oil
1/2 dry white wine

2 T. capers, or more if desired 

salt, pepper

1 T. butter

juice of one lemon
parsley, chopped

Turn the fan on above your range. Place a cast-iron skillet over your most powerful burner and turn the flame up high under the skillet. Let it heat for a few minutes until it gets very hot to the touch. Then add the olive oil and let that heat for a couple of minutes until it is nearly smoking. Don't leave the kitchen for an instant. Dry the scallops with paper towels and lightly coat with flour. Add the scallops one at a time to the hot oil and cook for about 30-45 seconds on each side. DO NOT CROWD THE PAN with too many scallops or they will start to release liquid and reduce the temperature in the pan too dramatically.
Remove the scallops from the pan and put aside on a plate.
Take the pan off the heat and wipe the inside clean with a paper towel. Let the temperature cool down to medium, then add the 3 T. olive oil, the white wine and the capers. I like to smush the capers a little into the wine. Put the scallops back into the simmering pan with any juices that may have accumulated on the plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste over everything. Let the scallops cook for just a couple of minutes more, then add the butter for flavor and to help emulsify the sauce. Add the lemon juice and parsley, swirl the pan for 30 seconds, then serve.



  1. How can you stop long enough to photograph this? I would have devoured it between mmm's and ahhs...

  2. haha... I'm with Scintilla. I'm horrible at food photography not because I don't know how to use a camera, but because I just can't wait to eat it!

  3. I agree with Scintilla and Peter..definitely going to try this, one thing I have yet to try!! Love you photo! :-)

  4. I seriously just looked at the clock to see if the seafood market is still open! Darn, they close at 5... The scallops look amazing! I'm a big fan of capers.

  5. I'm searching for a perfect dinner for my husband's birthday and this he loves. Thanks!

  6. This looks delicious! A perfect sauce for scallops.

  7. I never had scallops like this, but I'm about to change that! I bought some today...

  8. After lobster and shrimp, large scallops are my favorite seafood! I love the sear that you got on yours and the sauce sounds perfect!

  9. Hi Linda

    I'm not mentioning my grandson's name on my blog anymore --and I'm asking that commenters not mention his name in comments. I realized a little late that too many people read blogs, and maybe not all with the best intent, so I'd rather be safe than sorry. Thanks for understanding!

  10. What a delicious looking dish! Love that wonderful flavor combo!



  11. I just saw this recipe and I'll be making it for my boyfriends birthday dinner this weekend.


  12. Wonderful! I made the scallops with lemon, cranberry cous cous and swiss chard. A beautiful and scrumptious dinner. Thank you! I am looking forward to trying more of your recipes.