Rich and tender, with a bacon-like flavor, scallops are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. And though their delicate flesh – seemingly so easy to under- or overcook – often intimidates, they're actually almost idiotproof once you learn how to give them a proper sear. "Forty-five seconds to a minute and a half per side, and you're done," says chef David Kinch, owner of the two-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa, in Silicon Valley. Here, he presents them with a classic beurre blanc, a white-wine-and-butter combo he calls "one of the greatest sauces to come out of France." With twists like a splash of OJ, it's adaptable to nearly any seafood dish.
• 6 large dry-packed diver or day-boat scallops
• canola oil
For the beurre blanc
• 1 cup minced shallots
• 2 cups white wine
• 2 sticks cold butter, cut into cubes
Step one: Make the beurre blanc
Combine shallots and white wine in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the wine has evaporated, leaving a syrupy glaze on the shallots. Reduce heat to low, and add butter, one cube at a time, stirring with a whisk to combine between each addition. Set the pan somewhere warm.
Step two: Prep the scallops
Use a paring knife or your fingers to remove the tendon attached to each scallop. Set scallops on a plate with their most attractive faces – their "presentation sides" – up. Blot dry with paper towels.
Step three: Sear the scallops
Place a skillet over high heat. After a minute or two, add a thin film of oil. Set scallops presentation-side down. Now, says Kinch, "do not move the scallop. Do not pick it up and look, then pick it up and look. You won't get a beautiful sear that way." Leave it for 45 to 90 seconds, depending on size. Then flip to sear the other side, and quickly add a tablespoon of butter to the pan; it will immediately foam and turn brown. Tilt the pan to one side, allowing the butter to pool. Ladle butter repeatedly over scallops, and then set them on paper towels just long enough to drain excess butter. Arrange scallops on a plate with freshly steamed bright-green vegetables – broccoli florets are Kinch's choice – and ladle the beurre blanc over all.