Brown Butter Sea Scallops with a Meyer Lemon Sauce & Pistachio-Fennel Gremolata
Updated: Feb 18
This recipe is broken down in two parts: the first is the more complex aspect of the Meyer Lemon sauce with its accompanying pistachio-fennel seed gremolata; the second is a wonderfully simple recipe, with just two components apart from the salt and pepper. Sea scallops are plump, pinkish white, and tender, pleasingly smooth in texture and taste. Toasting butter in a pan until the milk solids turn golden brown adds a nutty depth that pairs perfectly with the distinctly sweet flavor of sautéed sea scallops. Serve this dish with a simple green salad, braised fennel, or string beans amandine.
Equipment: cutting board; peeler or paring knife; chef's knife; small sauce pan; slotted spoon; blender; mini food processor; sauté pan; spatula
for the Meyer lemon sauce:
3 Meyer Lemons 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon agave 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
for the gremolata: 1/2 cup shelled green pistachios 1/4 cup parsley leaves (flat or curly) 1 tablespoon fennel seeds for the sea scallops: 1 pound sea scallops, approximately 20 kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
“Gremolata is traditionally a crumb of parsley, garlic, and lemon for meats and vegetables ... so, I've replaced the garlic with pistachios and lemon with fennel seeds. But the application is the same.”
To make the Meyer lemon sauce: 1. Cut the rind from the lemons using either a peeler or paring knife. Lay the pieces of lemon rind flat on the cutting board and cut away the white pith, holding the knife parallel to the cutting board (see photos below). Cut away the white pith from the lemons. Cut the lemons in quarters and remove the seeds. Set the lemon flesh aside.
2. Place the trimmed rind in a small sauce pan and cover two inches with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 3. Remove the rind from the water and place in a blender along with the reserved lemon flesh. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon water from the sauce pan* along with the olive oil, agave, and salt. Process until smooth, and uniform and light in color. Set aside.
To make the gremolata:
1. Process the pistachios, parsley, and fennel seeds in a mini food processor until ground to a fine meal (see photo below).
To make the scallops:
1. Pat the scallops dry on the cutting board using a paper towel. Sprinkle the tops and bottoms generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Place the butter in a cold sauté pan and melt over high heat. Once the butter has melted and begins to foam, add the sea scallops. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side to achieve a golden brown surface without overcooking the scallops.
3. Remove the scallops to a serving dish and drizzle a shallow puddle of the lemon sauce around the scallops. Sprinkle the scallops with the pistachio gremolata and then drizzle with any remaining brown butter from the scallop pan.
4. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
“This dish is all about applying technique to bring out the best in the ingredients.”
Butter That Goes from Brown to Black
Brown butter is often called beurre noisette, named after the hazelnut color and nutty flavor achieved in browning the butter. Black butter (beurre noir) is not really black; if it were, it literally would be burnt, toxic, and unfit for consumption. It’s just one stage past brown butter, darker brown and even more nutty. Add a splash of lemon juice, rinsed capers, and some chopped parsley to black butter for savory sauce for fish and vegetables.
Reserve the Meyer Lemon Rind Water for Steaming Vegetables
A real cook never wastes a thing! Do not discard the remaining water you used to boil the Meyer lemon rinds. Drink the lemon water as a delicious tisane, or just add a steamer basket to the pan as it is and steam some vegetables. They will be lemon-scented in the most subtle and aromatic way ... a real treat!