The cultured Qualicum Bay scallops have emerged as a sustainable alternative to commercially dredged scallops. By raking the ocean floor to sift out scallops, dredging damages the seabed and harvests (and discards) other non-targeted sea life which can include unmarketable, undersized, and endangered species. Beyond the environmental damage caused by scallop dredging, the dredged scallops often contain grit as a consequence of the harvesting process. By comparison, the Qualicum Bay scallops are grown in mesh bags or trays which are suspended from secured flotation devices in nutrient-rich Georgia Strait. As a filter feeder, the Qualicum Bay scallop draws naturally occurring tiny plant and animal plankton through its gills.
The Qualicum Bay scallop is one of the largest scallops in the world often attaining sizes of six inches and 1.1. pounds. Its unique diet results in an ivory to pinkish white meat that is shiny and firm with an aroma that is both sweet and briny. Qualicum Bay scallops are harvested daily, cleaned, graded and shipped live, either in shell or shucked.
Chef Keith Froggett of Toronto's Scaramouche on Qualicum Bay scallops: How to Buy Scaramouche has been practising the tricky art of purchasing sustainable seafood for eight years or so. I say "tricky" because the restaurant is about 2,000 kilometres from the nearest ocean, so it's not easy to get reliable information about where or how a particular fish is being caught or farmed. It's a continuing project that consumes a fair amount of time. This perseverance, however, has paid off in a couple of ways. In 2007, Scaramouche was recognized by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and awarded the status of Seafood Watch Ambassador for making environmentally friendly seafood choices. The award was unexpected, but nice. And, in turn, it helped us make contact with other like-minded suppliers across the country, one of whom is Steve Johansen. Steve is part of a small group of independent West Coast fishermen who stand firmly behind the concept of sustainable practices. Through the group, Scaramouche and a few other Toronto restaurants have been receiving seasonal treats this year, including B.C. spot prawns. As well, Steve is our source for Fanny Bay oysters, ling cod, albacore tuna and, most notably, Qualicum Bay scallops.
These are notable because I had long been looking for a reliable alternative to the large wild sea scallops that we have traditionally sourced from the East Coast. The manner in which the East Coast scallops are harvested is a problem. They are usually fished commercially by dredging the seabed with large rakes that lift out the scallops - and anything else that happens to be in the way. This often causes damage to the ocean floor. And chemicals are sometimes added to keep the flesh white, increase the scallops' shelf life and plump them up. True, there are scallops coming from the East Coast that are harvested by divers in a sustainable manner and are of outstanding quality, but they are a small percentage of the catch. In Toronto, so far from the sea, it is hard to ascertain the method of harvest. But the Qualicum Bay scallops we get from Steve Johansen are grown in mesh bags suspended in the water. They are harvested daily, simply by lifting the bag to the surface. These succulent beauties arrive in my kitchen freshly shucked, with no other treatment, giving us peace of mind on the sustainable scallop front.
How to Prepare This recipe for roasted sea scallops with spicy Meyer lemon, chive and ginger beurre blanc is an explosion of flavour and colour – golden brown and topped with lemon rind, chives and chilies. Place two finely diced shallots, one oz (25 mL) of white wine vinegar, one oz (25 mL) of Meyer lemon juice and two oz (50 mL) of dry white wine into a stainless steel sauce pan and boil over high heat until almost dry. Add two oz (50 mL) of 35 per cent cream, return to a boil and lower heat slightly. Start to whisk in nine oz (250 g) of chilled and diced unsalted butter in five or six increments, letting the sauce boil gently between each addition and after the last. Remove from heat and continue whisking for a moment longer. Add one thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced, and finely diced Meyer lemon rind, to taste. Correct the seasoning with salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice. Keep the sauce in a warm place until ready to serve, finishing with freshly sliced chives and finely diced fresh red chili pepper just prior to serving. Heat a thick bottomed, ovenproof frying pan over high heat, adding a little vegetable oil. Season five oz (150 g) of scallops with salt and pepper and place them in the pan. Put the pan in an oven, which has been preheated to 475°F (250°C), for three to five minutes until the scallops are just beginning to go firm. Remove the pan and check the underside of the scallops to see if they are golden brown and, if not, place the pan over a high heat to colour the scallops. Arrange the scallops on a serving plate, golden side up, and pour a little of the sauce over them, serving the remaining sauce on the side.