As the Galley Guys travel about we meet great people who share our joy for being on the water — sharing food and wine, and partaking in a little dinnertime storytelling. This particular gastronomic event was in the making for months and began with the mention of Digby scallops and a scheduled trip to Canada’s ocean playground, Nova Scotia. One of these great people is honorary Galley Guy, Jim Grove, who along with his most delightful wife, Dudley, proposed a scallop recipe that he has been tweaking for years.

There are many species of scallops, but the ones harvested by the Digby scallop fleet are sea scallops. These sea scallops are only found in the northwest Atlantic Ocean from Cape Hatteras, north to Labrador. We found a fresh supply at Jim’s special place, the Fish Store in Gold River. Atlantic Canada, besides being absolutely beautiful, and populated with the friendliest people anywhere, means fresh seafood. We were not disappointed. Decision time, eight people for dinner so how many scallops would be enough?  Each scallop was between 6–7 cm round and 3–4 cm thick and true to a Galley Guy motto, you can never have too many, so we bought 60 scallops for dinner. On the way home we stopped at the side of the road where two ol’ Coaster Gals in big floppy hats parked, opened their trunk, and hawked fresh fruit and vegetables. Bright green and yellow beans, a basket of freshly-picked blueberries, and an educational adventure with the local jargon were all added to the basket for the evening meal.

Scallops are marine Mollusks (phylum Mollusca) from the class Pelecypoda and family Pectindae. They are bivalves with two hard shells, (or valves) and a soft body. The shells open and close by a single large muscle, the adductor muscle. This muscle is the meat of the scallop and the only part that gets eaten.

Seared Scallops with Tarragon-Butter Sauce was the recipe that Jim chose for the night’s marquee treat. Choosing the beurre blanc, the classic French butter sauce was a cinch to prepare and has the tendency to make just about anything taste better. Beurre-blanc allows the juices from the scallops to develop their own complexity in a most complimentary fashion.

The scallops are pan fried; it’s easy to do in the galley or on a stern barbeque. The secrets to searing scallops, according to Jim, are: 1) discard the tough ligament from the side of each scallop, 2) wash thoroughly to ensure no sand is still left in the scallop, 3) pat dry, 4) let stand to room temperature and 5) place the scallops in the pan one at a time in a clockwise rotation. This last manoeuvre keeps the pan at a constant heat. Make sure to follow the same pattern when turning and removing the scallops. After lifting the scallops from the pan, lay them on a paper towel for a few seconds to remove any excess oil.

Chef Jim uses unsalted butter, though I have heard that others recommend canola oil because of its high smoke point. Another Jim recommendation is the use of his favourite Shakespeare stainless sauté pan. He is not a big fan of non-stick pans for this recipe.

Jim’s big secret; brown only one side of the scallop. On a medium-high setting, cook the scallops for about 4–5 minutes or until caramelized to a golden brown. Turn the scallops to check the colour of the searing to be golden brown, not burned. When done, remove to a heated plate. Too much cooking equals toughness. Scallops cooked properly should almost melt in your mouth. The recipe can be doubled, but be careful not to burn the brown bit in the pan when searing the second and third lot.

The dinner invitees came to a candle-lit table and a large bowl of amazing sea scallops, served with Tarragon-Butter sauce over basmati rice. Along with fresh sautéed beans and, what I recall were a few bottles of sparkling wine, the Galley Guys had a meal to remember.

Our guests and hosts suddenly went quiet as they savoured these magnificent sea creatures but then the reviews poured out. Comparisons and recollections to other great meals, fishing expeditions from the past, seafood restaurants with spectacular offerings all became part of the mix in this joyful setting. There were many toasts throughout the evening; to the Chef, to scallops, to Digby and to this group of old and new friends.

It was during the storytelling part of the evening, as the stories rounded the table, that it fell upon the Galley Guys to add entertainment with a seafood theme.

Here it goes:

One of my sailing buddies was at home chilling out when he heard his wife come in the house. “Hi Honey,” he called out as he continued to watch an afternoon ball game on the TV, spread out on his Lazy Boy. Suddenly he became aware of his teary wife glaring down at him. “You forgot our anniversary, didn’t you?” she cried.

One thought ran through his brain: How could I have forgotten our anniversary...again? “Yes,” he confessed. “But I have a great idea. I will make you a beautiful dinner of escargot and champagne. Have a nice hot bath and I will run out to the store.”

First stop was the fish market where he bought a big bag of snails; next stop was the liquor store for a bottle of chilled champagne. As he stood in line to pay, he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning around, there was one of his old mates that he sailed with for many years. While they were catching, up one thing led to a beer, and then another beer, and before long it got dark, and that’s when he realized he was in big trouble.

As fast as he could, he ran home. He saw that the house and the porch lights were turned off. In the darkness, he bounded up the front stairs, but slipped and fell, dropping the bag of snails and spilling them all over the porch.

The porch light came on, the door unlocked, and there stood his wife wearing her house coat and curlers in her hair looking down at him. “What happened? Where have you been?” she demanded to know!

He looked up at her, he looked down at the snails, then back to his wife, and then back to the snails, then raised his arms and said, “Come on lads, we’re almost there!”

I must at this point give full credit to Pat Sturgeon, of Pat Sturgeon Yacht Sales, a true raconteur for this abridged version of the story. I first heard Pat tell this story in a bar at the Annapolis Boat Show several years ago; he brought down the house.

Great food, with great friends, with a side of laughter, a Galley Guy night to remember!

Seared Scallops with Tarragon-Butter Sauce

Recipe for four servings
Active time: 20 minutes

1 ¼ lbs large sea scallops
7 tbsp of unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons — divided
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tbsp finely chopped tarragon

Pat scallops dry, absolutely dry for best results, and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt & pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sear scallops turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a heated platter.

Add shallots, wine, and vinegar to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced to 2 tbsp.

Add juices from the platter and oil if necessary until liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup.

Reduce heat to low and add 3 tbsp of butter, stirring until almost melted. Then add remaining 3 tbsp of butter and swirl until incorporated and the sauce has a creamy consistency. Stir in tarragon and salt to taste; pour sauce over scallops.

Photo Captions:
1: Galley Guy Greg can hardly keep his excitementin tack holding a tray fullof fresh Digby scallops
2: Jim's big stainless pan was perfect to sizzle these amazing scallops to perfection
3: The platter was full of 60 scallops, the truth was 2 were left over and served with eggs the next morning
4: Galley Guy Greg with Honorary Galley Guy Jim Grove and with the Viking stainless pan in hand in Back Cove Chester Nova Scotia
5: Nova Scotia is pretty and Nova Scotians are beautiful! Buying locally grown fresh vegetables on the side of the road

Credit for recipe Seared Scallops with Tarragon-Butter Sauce to Gourmet March 2008 / Andrea Albin /

By Greg Nicoll