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Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
Thyme gives scallops an interesting mushroom-like note, and celery seeds add a welcome light bitterness. This spice blend makes light and buttery scallops taste almost meaty.
Finely grind together the peppercorns, coriander, celery, and thyme.
8 extra-large (U10) dry-packed sea scallops
1 tablespoon salted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1⁄4 cup)
Sprinkle about half the spice blend on both sides of the scallops.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, sprinkle salt evenly all over the scallops. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet (2 to 3 tablespoons) and heat until it ripples on the surface. Add the scallops in a single layer so they do not touch and then tilt the skillet so that the oil runs under all of them evenly.
Cook the scallops without moving them, using regular rotations of the pan to keep the heat distribution even, until they are golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip the scallops and add the pieces of butter to the pan. Tilt the skillet again to let the melted butter run under all the scallops and then hold the skillet at a 30-degree angle so the butter and oil pool toward one side.
Push the scallops toward the other side of the pan and use a spoon to baste the scallops with the fat for 30 seconds. Set the skillet down and cook until the bottoms are golden and the scallops are still slightly undercooked, about 1 minute—if you squeeze the sides of a scallop gently, it should still give a little and not feel firm. Transfer the scallops to a serving plate.
Add the capers, lemon juice, and remaining spice blend to the skillet. Cook, stirring and scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced into a glazy sauce, about 15 seconds. Spoon the sauce over the scallops and serve immediately.
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