Seared Scallops with Spring Onion and Tarragon Cream

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (92) Questions (2)

92 Reviews

wynn February 25, 2018
What do you suggest to serve this with in a warm climate?<br />
Scallops are one of my favourite things in the world! I´ve never tried them with Tarragon though, this will be a first!
Chef D. November 28, 2015
cabaniss June 13, 2015
can i do the sauce a day ahead
neighome June 13, 2015
I've made the sauce ahead of time without a problem. Just be sure to reheat very gently.
Nathan S. May 25, 2015
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.
chubert April 13, 2015
Any suggestions for a wine pairing with this dish?
Jordan August 26, 2014
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.
stephanieRD July 18, 2014
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.
Mark X. May 8, 2014
Amazing recipe. I substituted leeks for the spring onions and it was a success!
Sashinka November 25, 2012
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.
Davaritel November 25, 2012
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!
MarieH November 4, 2012
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!!
ChefFace September 25, 2012
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!
noahfactor August 1, 2012
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.
neighome June 10, 2012
I finished each plate with a small sprinkle of fennel pollen. My guests loved it!
2nd F. April 30, 2012
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
chrissyleer April 12, 2012
I found the sauce bland, but that may be because I used scallions. I think a squeeze of lemon juice may have helped!
chrissyleer April 12, 2012
I found the sauce bland, but that may be because I used scallions. I think a squeeze of lemon juice may have helped!
oldkitcheninflatbush March 28, 2012
I used watercress. i don't like tarragon. Worked great with scallops. Served it with a simple risotto. It was very good. Thanks.
oldkitcheninflatbush March 28, 2012
I used watercress. i don't like tarragon. Worked great with scallops. Served it with a simple risotto. It was very good. Thanks.