I jumped from boat to boat, down the docks in Wellfleet Harbor, looking for the Sadie Mae. "She's a big boat," the fishmonger had said, "white and loaded up with a dredger."
I was looking for a bucket of bay scallops a local fisherman had left me. They're hard to get in the shell, at least in fish markets nowadays.
I understand why, of course—the tiny, sweet abductor muscle really is the the best part—but there's plenty of other good meat to be had. Taken as a whole the bay scallop's not too different from a mussel or a clam, just sweeter and a bit more robust. Steamed and dipped in butter it grows better still.
I suppose how you cook it depends upon the occasion: for Christmas perhaps just the sweetest meat, but for the average evening I think I'd eat the whole shebang. At the least, it would be nice to have the option.
When I finally found the bucket, the scallops were chattering away. One snapped shut, and then another, out-clapping each other with a splash. I scooped up five for dinner, and tucked them into the car.
Shortly they were no longer clapping—thrown instead into a bit of seawater to steam. They quieted down and surrendered, mouths gaping and suddenly still. I watched them reveal their frills—all lace and delicacy around the edge. I took them out, gently, and placed them on the table to wait. With garlic minced and butter melted, I sauteed the two together until soft. The scallops and I sat, admiring each other briefly for a moment, and then it was time to eat.
STEAMED BAY SCALLOPS
Bring 1 cup fish stock or seawater to a boil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Put in 8 to 10 bay scallops, soaked, scrubbed, and in the shell, and steam covered until the shells open (about 1 to 2 minutes). (You will probably have to ask your fishmonger to get these for you in advance.) Mince 2 cloves garlic and saute in 4 tablespoons sweet butter. Keep warm and use for dipping.
WHERE TO BUY:
Glidden's Island Seafood, Nantucket 508.228.0912
Lobster's Live, Falmouth 800.628.0045
Mac's Seafood, Truro 508.349.9409
Swan River Seafood, Dennisport 508.398.2340
The Net Result, Martha's Vineyard 508.693.6071