Seared Scallops with Spring Onion and Tarragon Cream

By • April 13, 2010 89 Comments

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Author Notes: About a year ago I had a wonderful dish of halibut cheeks served with grilled baby leeks and asparagus and a spring onion soubise at one of our favorite Providence restaurants, La Laiterie. That soubise has haunted me, and I’ve been waiting for just the right opportunity to try my hand at making a similar sauce at home. When this challenge was announced, I thought the super sweet Bomster scallops (from Stonington, CT) that we get at our local farmers market would pair beautifully, and happily I was right. The delicate onion flavor, in this instance enhanced with a hint of anise-y tarragon and the subtle tang of (you guessed it) crème fraiche, played really well with the caramelized scallops, and the pale green color of the sauce whispered “spring.” - lastnightsdinnerlastnightsdinner

Food52 Review: Lastnightsdinner's scallop recipe proves that when it comes to seafood, less is often more. With just a few simple ingredients (spring onions, tarragon, butter, flour and milk), she creates a zippy, creamy sauce that's the perfect foil for sweet flesh of the scallops. And her technique of drying the scallops in the refrigerator before searing them makes for an impeccably caramelized crust. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 4 as a main course, more as a starter

  • 1 pound wild dry sea scallops
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 bunch spring onions, about ½ lb.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraiche
  • fresh chives for garnish
  1. Place the scallops on a plate or platter and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Trim the spring onions, separating the green tops from the small bulbs. Dice the bulbs and roughly chop the greens.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped spring onion bulbs and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to low, and cook 20-25 minutes, until very soft. Add the green tops, toss through, and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until soft but still bright green. Sprinkle the flour over and cook for a minute or two, just until the raw flour smell is gone. Add the milk, raising the heat to medium, and cook briefly until thickened. Add the tarragon leaves and stir through, then turn off the heat and pour the mixture into a blender. Puree until very smooth, then return to the pan over low heat, cooking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  4. Pour a thin film of grapeseed oil in the bottom of a sauté pan and warm over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the scallops a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan, and sear them just couple of minutes per side until they are nicely browned and caramelized - they should release from the pan easily once they’re ready, and they should still be a little jiggly in the middle, as they will continue to cook off the heat. Set aside and keep warm.
  5. Taste the sauce and adjust salt if necessary. Whisk in the crème fraiche off the heat until the mixture is smooth, then spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of shallow, warmed bowls, place scallops on top, and garnish with fresh chives.

Tags: savory, seafood, shellfish

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Comments (89) Questions (2)


about 1 month ago cabaniss

can i do the sauce a day ahead


about 1 month ago neighome

I've made the sauce ahead of time without a problem. Just be sure to reheat very gently.


2 months ago Nathan Smith

Awesome recipe. I used scallions instead of spring onions. This amount of sauce could probably be used for 1.5-2lbs of scallops in my opinion. While incredible, I think being conservative with anything accompanying scallops is wise. I used some of the left over sauce with some bucattini and it was perfect.


4 months ago chubert

Any suggestions for a wine pairing with this dish?


11 months ago Jordan

This was absolutely devine. The sauce was flavorful and delicious and complemented the sweet scallops perfectly, not to mention the fact that it makes for an absolutely beautiful presentation . Next time I will double the sauce and reserve half for use at another time.


about 1 year ago stephanieRD

The sauce is simply AMAZING. Made this for my love's birthday dinner last night, and he loved it. First time cooking scallops every, so I would say I conquered new culinary ground and it exceeded my expectations. Freezing the rest of the sauce and going to use it on something for dinner next week- maybe a good white fish? Shrimp? Possibilities are endless.


about 1 year ago Mark X

Amazing recipe. I substituted leeks for the spring onions and it was a success!


over 2 years ago Sashinka

OMG! My husband just served me these and they are scrump-dilee-icitious!!! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. He's already offered to make these for his parents, so they couldn't have been too much bother.


over 2 years ago Davaritel

I guess it goes without saying, but this a sper tasty dish. I had to make a few substitutions though: green onions instead of spring onions; skim milk instead of whole milk and crema mexicana instead of creme fraiche. Nevertheless, it was outstanding dish that I will make very often. The tarragon sauce was really amazing and adds some nice, fun color to the plate. Thanks for sharing!


over 2 years ago MarieH

I love this recipe and have made it several times as a company meal. Tarragon is a new herb for me and now I have it planted and cannot get enough. Thanks!!


almost 3 years ago ChefFace

Thank you for this recipe. I served these as my main dish with citrus spritzed asparagus and some rosemary foccacia, huge hit. I didn't change a thing. LOVELY!


about 3 years ago noahfactor

My girlfriend and I made this last night and it was amazing! The sauce perfectly complimented the scallops. And the recipe was not too hard, it was the first time either of us had cooked scallops or made a cream sauce before and it all came out great.


about 3 years ago neighome

I finished each plate with a small sprinkle of fennel pollen. My guests loved it!


over 3 years ago 2nd Floor Chef

Made this last night but I used regular green onions and I must say that the cream sauce is to die for I will be making this again


over 3 years ago chrissyleer

I found the sauce bland, but that may be because I used scallions. I think a squeeze of lemon juice may have helped!


over 3 years ago chrissyleer

I found the sauce bland, but that may be because I used scallions. I think a squeeze of lemon juice may have helped!


over 3 years ago oldkitcheninflatbush

I used watercress. i don't like tarragon. Worked great with scallops. Served it with a simple risotto. It was very good. Thanks.


over 3 years ago oldkitcheninflatbush

I used watercress. i don't like tarragon. Worked great with scallops. Served it with a simple risotto. It was very good. Thanks.


almost 4 years ago Laurenzim

This was a fantastic dish and beautiful to plate!!!


almost 4 years ago phyllis

I cooked this for dinner tonight for my adult children and it was a huge hit. Not the right time of year to get spring onions so I used leeks and scallions. It's a really lovely dish. Thank you.


about 4 years ago MonicaL

I'm very excited to try these out for dinner tomorrow. Can you recommend sides to go with this? And how do you ideally present the scallops. As a stand-alone course. In the picture it is by itself so was hoping for some guidance. Thanks!