Caramelized Sea Scallops
excerpted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
I always buy big scallops, graded U7, meaning there are 7 of this size in a pound, and for this dish, we brine them to season them all the way through.
2 cups kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups hot water
8 cups cold water
12 U7 sea scallops (about 1 3/4 pounds; see headnote), preferably dry-packed, tough side muscle removed from each one
About 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Clarified Butter
1/2 lemon (optional)
Line a small baking sheet with paper towels. Combine the 2 cups salt with the hot water in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cold water.
Add the scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes (no longer, or the scallops may become too salty). Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and arrange in a single layer on the paper towels.
Heat the clarified butter in a large stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat until it ripples and begins to smoke. (Although you may be tempted to use a nonstick pan, a stainless steel pan will produce a more beautiful caramelized exterior.) Sprinkle the scallops lightly with salt and add them to the pan, without crowding. (If necessary, cook the scallops in two pans or in 2 batches; if they touch, they will steam rather than caramelize.) Cook, without moving the scallops, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Turn the scallops and caramelize the second side.
Transfer the scallops to a serving platter and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, if desired.