Why It Works
- Working the butter into the sauce off the heat helps prevent it from accidentally breaking.
- Patting the scallops dry ensures a more deeply browned crust.
To make the silky sauce that pairs with these sweet and tender scallops, we replace the white wine in a classic beurre blanc with freshly squeezed orange juice. Finished with tangy buttermilk, it's seasoned with black pepper, woodsy oregano, and orange zest for added complexity.
- 1/2 cup (120ml) fresh orange juice from about 1 large orange, fine-strained of pulp, plus finely grated zest for garnish
- 1 sprig oregano, plus picked leaves for garnish
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons; 115g) butter, cut into 1-tablespoon chunks, divided
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) buttermilk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- White wine vinegar, to taste (optional)
- 1 pound (455g) dry-packed sea scallops (about 12 large; see note)
In a small saucepan, combine orange juice with oregano sprig and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Discard oregano.
Working off the heat, whisk in 6 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a smooth and creamy sauce forms. If sauce cools down to the point that the butter will no longer melt into it, return to heat, whisking constantly, to gently rewarm, then continue off the heat.
Whisk in buttermilk. Season sauce with salt and pepper, and whisk in a splash or two of white wine vinegar, if desired, to balance the sweetness to your liking. Set aside.
Pat scallops dry and season all over with salt. In a large stainless steel skillet, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over high heat until foaming. Cook scallops on first side until well browned, about 3 minutes; the butter will brown during cooking, but if it starts to blacken, turn down the heat. Using a slotted fish spatula, flip scallops and cook on second side just until warmed through.
Transfer scallops, browned side up, to clean paper towels to drain. Very gently rewarm the sauce over a low flame while whisking (the sauce can break and the buttermilk can curdle if it gets too hot).
Spoon warmed sauce onto warm serving plates. Arrange scallops on plates and garnish with oregano leaves and orange zest. Serve right away.
Large stainless steel skillet, whisk, small saucepan
Dry scallops are the only kind of scallop you should ever buy. The alternative, wet scallops, are brined with preservatives that make them retain water, taste terrible, and can strip the seasoning off of cast iron and carbon steel pans. Sadly, wet scallops are far more common and come with a much more appealing price tag, but they're simply not worth it. Ask your fishmonger if you're unsure what kind of scallops they're selling.