The versatility of day boat sea scallops has made them a favorite dish among North and South Forkers, chefs, and local restaurants. Although they may not be as coveted as Peconic Bay scallops (often referred to as the jewels of the bay), their year-round availability, tender texture, and sweet, rich flavor make them an excellent meal in any season.
They are also easy to cook, often prepared similarly to filet-mignon.
“We get our sea scallops shelled from Braun Seafood Company in Cutchogue,” says Nathan Hitchcock, executive chef at The Halyard in Greenport. “After we remove the abductor muscle, we give them a nice pan-sear, and they get that lovely caramelization on the outside.”
North Fork or South Fork (sometimes, he even uses Shinnecock scallops, when in season), Hitchcock believes in sourcing ingredients as locally as possible for the restaurant’s menu, which is located within the Soundview Hotel. For this dish, he includes Long Island spaghetti squash and sautéed kale (from KK’S The Farm in Southold, when available) into his recipe for pan-seared scallops, enhanced with a spicy kick from a Calabrian chili puree.
“I love a slight spice that can warm you up from the inside in the winter,” says Hitchcock. “For the sauce, we take roasted red peppers, a little bit of Calabrian chili, which has a good amount of spice alone, some cumin, coriander and a little espelette pepper, blend that all together and then emulsify it with a bit of oil.”
Hitchcock, who has helmed the executive chef position at The Halyard for two years this spring, also notes the versatility of the Calabrian sauce. “It could be served hot or cold, which is a plus and complements any piece of fish or even octopus,” he continues. “Anything that needs a little bit of spice and a little bit of acid.”
Here are a few tips when shopping for the main ingredient: Ask your local fishmonger for “day boat” scallops caught in smaller boats that fill up their holds, then return to port to deliver their day catch.
“Currently, we have sea scallops, sourced from day boats in New Bedford, Connecticut, that go out on Wednesdays and are delivered here Friday,” says Keith Reda, vice president of Braun Seafood Company in Cutchogue.
When selecting scallops, you will see size designations such as U/10 (U stands for “under,” meaning that you would need fewer than 10 or 15 scallops to equal a pound. “The New Bedford day boat scallops are about the size of a silver dollar,” says Reda, a decent size for this recipe.
To round out the meal aspect, Hitchcock suggests placing the scallops on top of spaghetti squash, which makes it a perfect gluten-free option. “It kind of simulates a spaghetti noodle,” he explains, “and it’s so simple: just cut the squash in half, roast it in the oven for roughly 35 minutes, take it out, and pull the insides with a fork and those noodles just form naturally.”
Finishing the dish with kale chips brings a crispy crunch while adding a nip of heat from the sprinkling of Tajin, a citrusy spice blend available at most supermarkets.
“I like good, bold flavors but prefer to let the ingredients shine,” says Hitchcock, who worked under chef Stephan Bogardus as a sous chef at North Fork Table and, later, The Halyard, before taking over the chief toque spot in 2022.
“I used to try to do all the fancy stuff, a lot of the classical French techniques, but now prefer to celebrate the ingredients found on the East End,” he says. “Don’t touch it or try to do too much, just keep it simple and delicious.”
We couldn’t agree more. But before you give it a go at home, why not grab some inspiration and try Hitchcock’s version at The Halyard. Perhaps you’ll spot a day boat while gazing at the incredible view of the Long Island Sound.
Chef Nathan Hitchcock’s pan-seared sea scallops
For the Calabrian chili puree
- 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
- 4 cups roasted red peppers
- 2 tbsp Calabrian chili
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 2 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp espelette pepper (or ore, depending on the spice level you like)
For the spaghetti squash
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 10 large kale leaves
- 2 shallots
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt, to taste
For the kale chips
- 10 large kale leaves, stems removed
- 1 tbsp Tajin
- 2 tsp olive oil
For the sea scallops
- 2 lbs sea scallops
- 1/4 cup clarified butter
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 strands thyme
- 1 tbsp butter
- salt, to taste