Seared Scallops with Pickled Watermelon & Crispy Pork Belly

Having visited New Bedford earlier this week and ogled at the scallop boats, I decided I needed to make a scallop dish this week. Honestly, I’m happy with just simple, seared scallops. It’s the best way to just let the sweet flavor of the shellfish speak for itself. However, I recently stumbled upon this post in Eat Boutique about The Preservation Kitchen, pinging my memory of the sweetly spiced watermelon rind I made late summer from the book. Why not try to combine that with scallops? Well, okay, adding pork belly and creme fraiche sounds great, too.

Pork Belly

I had never cooked pork belly before. A word to the wise: plan ahead. You’ll want to give it a night in the fridge with herbs and spices, then a good 4-6 hours the next day to slowly braise before crisping it in the pan with a bit of duckfat. I didn’t set aside enough time to do that, so I cheated a bit: scored and poked the fat, seasoned with Maldon sea salt and pepper, brushed a little Champagne vinegar on top, and cooked for about an hour and a half in the oven, fat side up, uncovered (at 425 for a half hour, then 350 for an hour, based on this site). The end result was still delicious, but I think a nice, slow braise followed by a stovetop crisping would produce a more tender belly.

Pickled Watermelon

The recipe for pickled watermelon is rather involved; not difficult, but time consuming. You have to cook it in sugar & spiced water, let sit for 3 days, and repeat a couple of times before canning it. Because there are so many steps involved, it’d be best to refer directly to the recipe in The Preservation Kitchen for instructions on how to do this. I also am not an expert on canning, so would rather readers find a good book on it, rather than relying on inconsistent recipes online. Better safe than sorry! I’ve used the items I canned from this book in gluten-free goat cheese and pickled cherry tomato tartsbucheron, paired with bucheron and a baguettea Greek yogurt & brandied fig parfaitpoached eggs with pickled cherry tomato salsa; and a few other dishes.

Spiced Creme Fraiche

I whipped a little of the pickling liquid into the creme fraiche to give it that sweet, spiced taste present in the watermelon, then added a dollop of carrot and habanero jam I recently bought. The jam gave it extra texture and a little bit of a kick, leaving us with a sweet, salty, and just a tiny bit spicy app!

Seared Scallop

This can be the last step, as it only takes a couple minutes. Cooking on high or medium-high, melt a little duckfat or butter (duckfat or something in that category, such as bacon fat, would work better than butter). Cook the scallops for just under 2 minutes per side, until they are nice and golden and warmed through, but still meltingly tender. You’ll want to use day boat scallops if possible, and make sure you get the dry ones. Wet scallops are soaked in trisodium-phosphate, a chemical preservative to make them retain water. You end up paying more for less; the water cooks off, leaving you with a smaller scallop. Not to mention, who wants preservatives in their seafood? Better off with the dry ones. You’ll get your money’s worth, and will be able to produce a much nicer sear.

Assembling

Either spoon, or use a squeeze bottle, to pour some of the creme fraiche sauce onto a plate. Use bamboo skewers (compostable, hey!) to pile scallop, pickled watermelon rind (or lemon slice, which is also in there), pork belly, then another rind. Sprinkle some sea salt on top, and have fun trying to keep them all standing before they’re eaten!

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