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A&E >  Cooking

Scallops with sweet-tart citrus sauce can brighten your day in half an hour

This dish allows for lots of flexibility. For the citrus, it calls for one orange and a red grapefruit, but you could use two oranges. And, instead of scallops, you could use a white fish or shrimp.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
This dish allows for lots of flexibility. For the citrus, it calls for one orange and a red grapefruit, but you could use two oranges. And, instead of scallops, you could use a white fish or shrimp. (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Ellie Krieger Special To The Washington Post ·

Citrus is one sunny bright spot I bask in every winter. Each juicy segment of the fruit carries brilliant, warm rays of light to my kitchen, a stark contrast from the otherwise drab, chilly backdrop of the season.

I escape into the vast variety of it, from pomelos to satsumas, easy-peeling my way to vitamin C-packed snacks, segmenting it onto salads and simmering it into stews and sauces. In this dish, citrus juice and segments join together with sautéed shallots and white wine to form a stunning, slurpy, sweet-tart sauce that is poured over seared scallops.

The recipe calls for a red grapefruit and a large orange, but there is a lot of flexibility as to what types you can use. A red grapefruit has a glorious color and reliable sweetness, but any grapefruit variety would work, or you can substitute two more oranges if that’s what you have on hand.

Any type of orange will do the trick, too. I gravitate toward the pink-hued cara cara, and I will never pass up a blood orange when I can find one. The sauce will tilt sweeter or tarter depending on the citrus you choose, but that’s half the fun of it because there is a wide berth of goodness there. Besides, you can always add a touch of honey or a squeeze of lemon at the end to adjust the flavor as needed.

The sauce is finished with a dab of butter to mellow it and add a layer of richness and then poured over the scallops (though you could substitute any white fish fillet or shrimp) and garnished with aromatic herbs.

I adore the anise essence that tarragon brings here, but basil works, too. Whichever variations you choose, the result is a mouthwatering dish, ready in about half an hour, that’s sure to be a highlight of your day.

Scallops With Shallot Citrus Sauce

1 medium red grapefruit (about 12 ounces)

1 large orange (about 9 ounces)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large shallot, finely diced (about ¾ cup)

½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot gris

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 pound large sea scallops

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or basil, for serving

Using a sharp paring knife, trim the top and bottom off the grapefruit and the orange, then remove the white pith and the peel of each by standing the fruit on one of its cut ends and, following the shape of the fruit with your knife, cutting downward around the fruit.

Working over a bowl so the citrus segments fall into the bowl and you catch the juice, use the paring knife to remove each segment of the fruit from its membrane. Squeeze the remaining membrane over the bowl to extract more juice. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the citrus segments to a separate bowl; reserve the juice.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Cook until the wine is reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved citrus juice and cook until the liquid in the pan has reduced slightly, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the butter and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, then remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Pat the scallops all over with paper towels to ensure that they are as dry as possible, then sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over high heat, heat the remaining oil until shimmering. Working in batches if necessary, add the scallops and cook, without moving them, until caramelized and brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently flip, and cook on the other side until the scallops are only slightly translucent in the center, 2 to 3 minutes more.

While the scallops are cooking, add the citrus segments to the sauce, stirring gently so they don’t break up much; return the sauce to low heat until warmed through.

Evenly divide the scallops among 4 plates, pour about ⅓ cup of sauce on top, and sprinkle with the herbs. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings

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