There are two sizes of scallops, the larger are called sea scallops and their smaller relatives are bay scallops. Bay scallops are considered tastier than sea scallops and can be eaten uncooked. When eaten uncooked, sea scallops are usually served with lemon juice. They are so delicate that the acid in the lemon will actually ‘cook’ them. Sea scallops can live for many years, but the life span of bay scallops is usually less than eighteen months.
Like clams and oysters, scallops are bivalves, which means they are from the mollusks family. Mollusks have a two-part shell that can open and shut. Scallops, however, are the only mollusks with primitive eyes, which are located around its gill rakes. Sea scallops are harvested by dredging boats. Bay scallops can sometimes be found in sea grass during low tide.
The ‘scallops’ found in most fish departments at super markets are actually only the adductor muscle of the shellfish and because they have been shucked from the shell the roe has been discarded. Every scallop has only one adductor muscle. There are approximately two hundred sea scallops muscles in a gallon and four hundred and fifty bay scallops. Bay scallops are about a half inch in diameter while sea scallops are normally an inch and a half in diameter.
Once cleaned, the sea scallop’s beautiful shell makes a perfect baking and serving dish and is often used for the classic Coquille St. Jacques dishes. Sometimes mashed or duchess potatoes are piped from a pastry bag around the edge of the serving shell to keep any sauces inside the shell. This procedure is called a tinker’s dam.
Coquilles St. Jacques means Sea Shell of St. James, who is the patron saint of shell fishermen. The scallop shell was worn around the fishermen necks as a symbol for him. Any scallop dish can be called Coquille St. Jacques.
The large size of the sea scallop makes them perfect to be used on a brochette or shish kebab. Wrapped in bacon and broiled or baked, they make a delicious hot item to be served at a cocktail party. Bay scallops are a good addition to a seafood Newburg dish.
Sea scallops are often served breaded and deep fried and served either by themselves or in a combination with other fried fish called a fisherman’s platter. They are much tastier when broiled gently and lightly in butter as this method seals in their delicate flavor.