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Scallops al Ajillo

4 Servings

25 minutes

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Gambas al ajillo, or shrimp with garlic, is a popular Spanish tapa. For a new take on the classic, we swapped sweet, buttery sea scallops for the shrimp and created a portion generous enough to be served as a light main course. Look for U15 sea scallops—the sizing indicates there are fewer than 15 scallops per pound. Slightly larger or smaller ones will work, too. Just as importantly, seek out “dry” sea scallops, ones that have not been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate. If purchasing frozen, check the ingredients label; at the seafood counter, make sure the scallops are not sitting in a pool of liquid, or ask. Another tell is color: dry scallops have a pale coral hue, whereas treated scallops are stark white. Serve with a simple salad of bitter greens to round out the meal.




Don’t forget to pat the scallops dry before salting them, as well as just before placing them in the skillet. Wicking away excess moisture ensures nice, quick caramelization in the pan. (Keeping the scallops on a paper towel–lined plate while they wait to be cooked helps, too.) Don’t attempt to move the scallops immediately after placing them in the skillet. They will stick at first but then release after they’ve formed a bottom crust.

25 minutes


  • 1-1¼

    pounds dry sea scallops (see headnote), side tendons removed

  • Kosher salt


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Sandra H.

Enjoyed this recipe with some scallops I found in my freezer. I didn't have the sherry vinegar so I used part cooking sherry wine and part balsamic vinegar.