This is really one of those “no recipe” recipes that you throw together and comes out great. The better the sea scallops, the better the result, so I recommend “dry” (also known as “diver”) scallops, although I have to admit I’ve had pretty good results with frozen wild-caught American sea scallops. (Yes, I know all scallops come from the sea, but “sea scallops” are the big ones to differentiate them from the smaller “bay scallops” or the the even smaller “calico scallops.”)
The trick with this dish is to use two pans. I sear the scallops in my well-seasoned cast iron skillet, while I sauté the garlic and red pepper in a stainless pan (you could use non-stick) that is big enough to hold the pasta.
1/2 TBS butter or less
2TBS extra virgin olive oil
2 gloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Dry crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup of dry (preferably French) vermouth or dry white wine
1 lb. seas scallops (dried with paper towels.)
½ lb. of linguini
Pinch of saffron threads (crushed in a mortar if you want.)
Salt the water for the pasta and bring it to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your cast iron pan over high heat and put in a little butter (you don’t want too much, since you want to sear them, not fry them.) Make sure your scallops are dry or they won’t sear. Add scallops.
You want to cook them until they are brown and crusty on one side (peek at them using tongs.) When they are brown on one side turn them over and turn the heat to low for three minutes. Remove scallops to a plate, and deglaze the pan with the vermouth or white wine.
While the scallops are searing heat your other pan, not too hot, put the oil in, add the chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes (to taste) and sauté. Don’t let your garlic burn. When the garlic is brown add the deglazing vermouth from the other pan and the crushed saffron threads
When the pasta is done, save a half cup of the cooking water, and then drain the pasta, and add it to the oil, garlic pan. Add the pasta water. Turn the heat up and cook the pasta for about a minute, tossing to mix the ingredients. Add the cooked scallops, grind black pepper to taste and serve onto hot plates.
Serve with a crisp white wine.