Bechamel Baked Scallops

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  • Most people think of searing scallops, but they are also great baked and this recipe uses both techniques to get maximum flavor and texture. Smothered in a spiced Bechamel sauce, they are a great way to prepare scallops for a dinner party, special occasion or holiday.

    baked scallop recipe with text overlay

    About This Scallop Recipe

    At first glance, this recipe might sound a little complicated, but it isn’t technically challenging, more of just many elements that all come together before baking. It seems deceiving, but most baked scallop recipes will still require you to broil or pan pear them before baking.

    And a few more dishes than I typically like to clean, but it’s so good that I wouldn’t keep making it (or post it) if I didn’t think the extra elbow grease wasn’t worth it. Here are a few reasons why you’ll love this recipe too.

    • Bechamel- Many baked scallops are just soaked in melted butter or olive oil, white wine and then topped with Parmesan cheese, which is great, but this one uses a silky sauce to keep them moist and provide flavor.
    • Seasoned milk- The milk for this roux isn’t just milk, it is spiked with onion, clove and bay leaf. It smells amazing while cooking. Trust me- go outside and come back into get the aroma blast.
    • Make ahead- Yes, there are several parts to the this recipe, but you can make the sauce, toast the bread crumbs and sear the scallops ahead of time and then just pop the finished dish into the oven when you are ready to serve.
    • Versatile– This dish can be made as an entree or appetizer.
    Angle view of scallops in a mini cast iron skillet with creamy sauce

    What is a Bechamel Sauce?

    Mastering a basic bechamel should be in every home cook’s repertoire. Bechamel may also be referred to as besciamella, besamel, or white sauce. French, Italian and Greek and is considered to be one of the five mother sauces. It is made from a roux (equal parts fat and flour) and milk.

    This white sauce is the base for many other creamy sauces such as, cheese sauces, queso and ala king dishes, but just the plain version still has a lot of flavor and versatility. The most common additions are nutmeg and salt.

    showing how to make a bechamel sauce

    Rich and creamy, anything smothered in bechamel will come across has elegant and gourmet. The flavor is highly impacted for how long you toast the roux sauce. Roux are generally referred to in four stages.

    1. White roux- used as a thickening agent, but doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Sometimes referred to has a slurry or kept off to the side or in a dish for chefs to use in small amounts.
    2. Blond roux- lightly browned with mild flavors and the same thickening powers.
    3. Brown Roux – sometimes called a brunette, keep along the theme of hair colors. This has slightly more flavor and tends to take about 10-15 minutes of continuous whisking to achieve. It has good flavor and will pack some punch to any sauce.
    4. Chocolate Roux- The deepest and richest of the roux. Oddly enough, it smells a lot like popcorn. It is used frequently in gumbos and creole/cajun cuisine.

    What You’ll Need

    Just a few ingredients combine to make a delightfully delicious meal.

    • Clarified Unsalted Butter– Make your own clarified butter or grab a jar of ghee at the store. You can also get away with using just regular butter, but I highly suggest using a high AA+ quality butter so it has lower milk fat and water content, leaving you with great flavor.
    • All-Purpose Flour– Or another alternative flour.
    • Whole Milk– The thickest and most flavorful.
    • Yellow Onion– Peel and cut the onion into the quarters. The objective is to let the onion juices and flavors leach into the milk.
    • Whole cloves and bay Leaf– Both provide warm spicy flavor without being overwhelming.
    • Seasoned bread crumbs– Any type of crunchy topping can be used. Ritz crackers, panko breadcrumbs or plain bread crumbs can be used too.
    • Large Scallops– The actual quality is going to vary based on the size per pound. This recipe will make enough roux for a large batch. You can simply buy 1 pound or figure out how many scallops you need per person and ask the seafood monger for the exact amount. These can be fresh scallops or frozen scallops, make sure they are fully thawed. Bay scallops can also be used, but are the super small ones so plan for more per person.
    • Coarse kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper– for seasoning.
    close up of scallops with breadcrumb topping

    How Many Scallops Per Person

    This will be based on 3 elements:

    • Appetizer or entree? As an appetizer, you’ll want 2-3 large scallops person. As an entree, 5-6 scallops per person.
    • Budget– Large scallops are pricey.
    • Hunger– My group is a hungry bunch that loves scallops, so I plan for a few extra for those folks.
    Overhead of scallops in a small cast iron

    How to Bake Scallops

    1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, onion, cloves and bay leaf to a low simmer so the milk can infuse with flavor. Simmer for about 15 minute, remove from the heat and fish out the solids or pour through a colander or fine mesh sieve. Set the seasoned milk aside. If you pour this into a different dish or measuring cup, then use the same saucepan for making the roux.
    2. Melt 7 tablespoons of the the clarified butter (or regular butter) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Make sure the heat isn’t too hot or else the flour and butter will have trouble combining properly.
    3. When melted, whisk in the flour until it forms a paste. Continue to whisk on medium heat until it smells slightly nutty, making a blond roux, approximately 5 minutes.
    4. While whisking, pour the milk mixture into the roux. It will be lumpy at first, but will thin and thicken as you whisk. When smooth, remove from the heat and set aside.
    5. In a separate small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of clarified butter and add the seasoned breadcrumbs, tossing to coat. Mix until butter has been absorbed and is like wet sand. Toasting any type of breadcrumb gives it so much more flavor than it would have straight out of the box.
    6. Preheat the oven and prepare the scallops so they are dry, patting dry with paper towels. Moisture is the enemy when searing scallops. Searing gives them a flavorful brown crust and brings them up to temperature for even cooking while in the oven.
    7. Season the scallops and then sear in a large cast iron skillet. Only sear for 1-2 minutes on both sides (depending on meaty your scallops are). Dry scallops should not have any residual moisture, but if they do, tip the skillet over the sink to pour out liquids so they can brown. They will not brown with liquid in the pan.
    8. If you used an oven safe pan to sear the scallops, then use that for baking. If not, transfer the scallops to a baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over top of the scallops and then evenly top with the breadcrumbs. Bake until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. You can take these up a notch too by seasoning them with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, lemon zest or additional Italian seasoning.
    9. Remove and serve.
    close up view of scallops with breadcrumb topping and cream sauce

    How to Serve

    My favorite way to serve this scallop dish is over a bed of angel hair or orzo pasta, but I think next time I’ll serve them over a bed of rice.

    This great recipe can also be served with the sauce and a vegetable dish dish or bread to mop up the sauce from your plate.

    scallop on a fork

    Tips for Making Scallops at Home

    1. Ask your grocer for “dry scallops”, these are not packed in water and essentially inflated. A dry scallop will stay relatively the same size and the usually higher per pound price will be for all scallop instead of absorbed water. Water packed scallops will reduce in size considerably.
    2. The best pan, at least in my opinion, to cook scallops in is a true cast iron pan, one that will absorb the reduced liquid (even with dry scallops there will be a little bit of liquid), and allow them to sear and brown evenly on each side.
    3. To really sear a scallop you will need a little bit of fat (butter or oil) and a very hot pan. I’m talking steamy, set off the smoke detector, sizzling HOT.
    4. Scallops only take 1-2 minutes per side. No longer. Many folks over cook scallops at home for fear they are undercooked. Ideally you want the opaque white to into a glossy white and the inside to be a “medium rare”. With this recipe they will also cook a little bit in the oven, so we are going to cook them even less in the pan.
    5. There is a small muscle that some scallops will have on the side. Well, all scallops had them, some may still when you bring them home.
    6. Scallops suck in water and then spit it out, so you may have some grains of sand inside, don’t panic, it is normal.
    baked scallop recipe for pinterest

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    recipe for baked scallops with text overlay
    close up view of scallops with breadcrumb topping and cream sauce
    Print Recipe
    4.53 from 19 votes

    Bechamel Baked Scallop Recipe

    Bechamel Baked Scallops cover tender scallops in a clove and bay leaf spiced, creamy bechamel sauce. Perfect for special occasions.
    Prep Time10 mins
    Cook Time15 mins
    Total Time25 mins
    Course: Appetizer, Main Course
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: baked scallops, how to make scallops at home
    Servings: 4
    Calories: 538kcal
    Author: Jessica Formicola

    Ingredients

    Instructions

    • In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, onion, cloves and bay leaf to a low simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes and remove from the heat. Remove and discard the onion, cloves and bay leaf
    • Melt 7 tablespoons of the the clarified butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, whisk in the flour until it forms a paste. Continue to whisk on medium heat until it smells slightly nutty. Do not go over medium heat or the the mixture will separate.
    • While whisking, pour the milk mixture into the roux. It will be lumpy at first, but will thin and thicken as you whisk. When smooth, remove from the heat and set aside.
    • In a separate small skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of clarified butter and add the seasoned breadcrumbs, tossing to coat. Mix until butter has been absorbed and is like wet sand. Remove and set aside.
    • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    • Dab the scallops with a paper towel to dry them as much as possible and season with the salt and freshly cracked pepper.
    • Heat a large cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the scallops in the skillet to sear for 1-2 minutes on each side (depending on the size). Dry scallops should not have any residual moisture, but if they do, tip the skillet over the sink to pour out liquids.
    • Pour the bechamel sauce over top of the scallops and then evenly top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 12 minutes or until bread crumbs are lightly browned.
    • Remove and serve immediately.
    • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

    Notes

    Any roux is best made with clarified butter (ghee), but you can use regular butter too. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 1076mg | Potassium: 549mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 969IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 228mg | Iron: 3mg

     

    image of jessica formicola

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