Seared Scallops with Spring Onion and Tarragon Cream

By • April 13, 2010 • 85 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.
Jump to Comments (85)

Tags: savory, seafood, shellfish

Comments (85) Questions (2)

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Jd

4 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.

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5 months 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.

Stringio

8 months ago Mark Eckstrom

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

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about 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.

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about 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!

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about 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!!

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about 2 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!

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over 2 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.

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over 2 years ago neighome

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

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over 2 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

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over 2 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!

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over 2 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!

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over 2 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.

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over 2 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.

Sdc12568

about 3 years ago Laurenzim

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

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over 3 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.

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over 3 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!

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over 3 years ago amreiskitchen

I made this a few nights ago and as everyone has already said, the sauce is to die for. My husband went bananas ha nearly ate the plate! The perfect foil for so many things and so simple. Definitely a keeper.

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over 3 years ago cookie27

great recipe for scallops! but the cream sauce is to die for... i've used it in lots of ways, even spread on multigrain bread, covered with a slice of cheese and broiled for lunch. yummm. i'm tempted to eat it with a spoon!

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over 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it!

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over 3 years ago cookie27

forgot to mention... this sauce is great with steamed artichokes too!

Sit2

over 3 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

This is why I think it's such a great recipe..that shouldn't just be limited to scallops.
It works in many ways. I used leftovers on asparagus and it keeps beautifully in the 'fridge for a day or so..plus the color makes it look great on a plate.

Sit2

over 3 years ago Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

I want to thank you. I made this last it and it was a major hit, a keeper.
I couldn't find really good scallops, so I used up some vac-paced talipa and cooked them with clarified butter and a crust of "Wondera Flour" and some drops of lemon/olive oil to the sauce after plating.
Well done!

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over 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you so much! And glad to hear the sauce worked with other seafood - your prep sounds lovely!

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over 3 years ago hazeddazed

making this tonight! so excited!

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almost 4 years ago sygyzy

I made this tonight and it was really really good. The star of the dish is of course the sauce, which tastes like it could work with almost any protein. I see using it with a firm fish like swordfish or even grilled chicken breast. I used 6 oz of green onion, half a medium yellow onion, and a large shallot. I also used dried tarragon instead of fresh after failing to find it in three stores. Really, amazing recipe.

Mug2012

almost 4 years ago hummingbirdap

I just made this. It was delicious! I used scallions instead of spring onions.

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almost 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you so much! Scallions are a perfect substitute :) So glad you enjoyed it!

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over 4 years ago MsChristina

oh and side note: add toasted pinenuts on top!!!! :D

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over 4 years ago MsChristina

i absolutely LOVEDDDDD this recipe!!! didn't have spring onion because it's not spring anymore, but used leek stems and diced yellow onions. this was definitely pleasing to the palate :)

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almost 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks, MsChristina! So glad you tried and liked it, and I love your addition of toasted pine nuts!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks, all, for your congrats, and thank you to all who have tried this and liked it - I'm so thrilled.

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over 4 years ago Veronica

Oh my heavens--sublime! FINALLY made this last night--my husband and I are still swooning. He's leaving on business tomorrow so I get to finish the sauce, however I please! Thank you for this marvelous addition and CONGRATULATIONS!

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over 4 years ago Kabocha

I made this last night and it was so delicious... but be careful to not add too much tarragon or the anise flavour will overwhelm the sauce.

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over 4 years ago shayma

Congrats, Jen, love love love this recipe. You rock. xxxx shayma

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over 4 years ago Refrigerator Magnet

This recipe looks amazing. I cannot wait to try it.

Kay_at_lake

over 4 years ago Kayb

Congrats! I'm trying this sauce on SOMETHING this weekend. Scallops if I can find decent ones!

Kroka_kitchen

over 4 years ago maryvelasquez

Lovely! So glad this simple but delicious dish will be in the book.

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over 4 years ago TasteFood

Congratulations LND. This is a great recipe!

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over 4 years ago coffeefoodwritergirl

Congrats LND! looking forward to trying them!

Ry_400

over 4 years ago melissav

Congrats LND! You are a force to be reckoned with. If you keep it up, A&M are going to have to rename the cookbook to the "Food 52 & LND Cookbook."

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks so much! I was convinced your scallops would win - such a wonderful recipe, and the roasted lemons are inspired! I can't wait to make it at home soon.

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over 4 years ago amreen

Yay! Congrats ... i love the cobos in this dish ... simple and elegant ... can't wait to try it!

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over 4 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

I made this last weekend. The sauce was intoxicating. I saved the last little bit from the pot and enjoyed it the next day over asparagus. Really, I'm sure it would be good poured over almost anything, but with the scallops, it's fantastic.

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Congrats, LND on another great win! Gotta keep my eyes open for these Bomster scallops.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

I've been in meetings all morning - what a thrill to see this when I came out! Thank you all SO much!

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over 4 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations on the win! I never make scallops--my husband is allergic--but I'm looking forward to trying the sauce.

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Congrats, LND! This is a beautiful recipe.

Henrykiss

over 4 years ago arielleclementine

congratulations, lastnightsdinner! a beautiful recipe :)

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over 4 years ago SallyCan

A lovely recipe~I love the mix of spring onions, tarragon and creme fraiche.

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over 4 years ago Veronica

Congratulations and thank you! Can NOT wait to try this. It looks and "feels/smells" gorgeous"!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks again, everyone! You sure know how to make a girl blush :)

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Tarragon is an absolute favorite of mine, and so good with seafood. Congratulations, and thanks for such a great recipe.

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over 4 years ago mariaraynal

Tarragon is one of those underused, underappreciated herbs. You've elevated it to something truly special in this dish. Congrats!

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over 4 years ago Aliwaks

beautiful ! i want them in my mouth..now!

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over 4 years ago KelseyTheNaptimeChef

Congrats! What a yummy and pretty recipe!

Me

over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

CONGRATS on being a finalist with such a great recipe!! I'm buying some scallops today and am planning on this for dinner. It sounds just wonderful!!

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over 4 years ago TasteFood

Congratulations LND! This recipe sounds simply luxurious.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks so much, everyone! I'm so honored and humbled, particularly going up against such great competition!

Ry_400

over 4 years ago melissav

Congrats. This is a great dish. As I mention below, I made it with pompano and then I used the leftover sauce with scallops the next night. And if that wasn't enough, I made the sauce on Monday and tossed it with sauteed summer squash, peas, and pasta. It was delicious.

Monkeys

over 4 years ago monkeymom

Yay! Congrats, can't wait to class up my joint by making this.

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over 4 years ago Lizthechef

Brava, brava and yes, I-told-you-so :)

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over 4 years ago dymnyno

I made the sauce...somehow way too thick. Delicious but I thought that the amount in your pic was waaay to much for the scallop...soo rich !

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over 4 years ago ENunn

Oh, my gosh. I'm absolutely dying. Die-ing.

And can I just say that I am so jealous that you have scallops at your farmers market? We don't do that here in Chicago.

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over 4 years ago katekirk

As promised...made this tonight and wow wow wow delicious. I think I over-thickened the sauce - tasted great, though. I have a dinner party planned in a couple of weeks and will plan on doing this for a starter. Wonderful, thank you!

Kay_at_lake

over 4 years ago Kayb

I believe I could eat that sauce with a spoon.

Steve_dunn02

over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Tarragon is my favorite herb....period. This is definitely the next way I will be making scallops.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

I hope you like it!

Ry_400

over 4 years ago melissav

I made the spring onion soubise tonight and served it with a piece of fresh Florida pompano. It took every bit of self-control not to just pour the sauce in a bowl and eat it like a soup. It was that good - and I didn't even add the creme fraiche. Great recipe.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Wow, thank you!

(and I spent a lot of time in Florida when I was younger - there's nothing like fresh pompano. I miss it!)

Meg_b_f52

over 4 years ago meganvt01

That caramelization on those scallops looks amazing. Do you use non-stick or an anodized pan to get that finish?

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks! I used an 11-inch All-Clad Stainless French Skillet for the scallops.

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over 4 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

This is a gorgeous recipe. Yum. My tarragon is just greening up in the garden and I can't wait to give this a try.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thank you, my friend :)

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over 4 years ago katekirk

THIS is on my weekend menu.

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

I hope you like it!

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over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Thanks so much, everyone!

mrslarkin, there are a couple of different types of soubise sauces - Escoffier has a version which is basically onions cooked slowly with a bechamel (which is what I tried to do here), Julia Child did a rice-based version, and there are soubise recipes on the internet that are neither.

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Thanks so much for the tips! Will check them out. P.S. I love all your recipes - they are very inspiring.

Me

over 4 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Fabulous!

Monkeys

over 4 years ago monkeymom

Lovely!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

ohhh....that's very nice. what's soubise? french word for sauce?

Meat_helmet

over 4 years ago lechef

Wow. I want this right now.

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over 4 years ago coffeefoodwritergirl

These look absolutely delicious and the photo is beautiful!

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over 4 years ago TasteFood

OK, now I am officially hungry. These look great.

Winnie100

over 4 years ago WinnieAb

Really really great!