Salt Block Scallops with Szechuan Peppercorns and Citrus
Sautéeing on Himalayan salt blocks creates exponentially more flavor than sautéeing in a conventional skillet. This is because a salt block cooks your food in two ways. At a blazing 500 degrees or higher, the heavy block of salt has enormous thermal mass, sizzling away moisture to produce a thick crust of rich, concentrated flavor. At the same time, the Himalayan salt itself sets to work, bursting cell membranes, intermingling juices, and breaking loose new flavors that in turn sizzle away to make for even more concentrated flavors. Want to make the most of this miracle of cooking chemistry? Balance out the scallop’s rich buttery flavors with a spritz of citrus and reinforce everything with the lip-tingling spice of Szechuan peppercorns. You’ll not have another scallop that’s this fun to cook, impressive to serve, or tasty to eat.
- 2 4x8x2 inch (or one 8x8x2 inch) Himalayan salt blocks
- 1 1/4 pounds large wild-caught sea scallops (about 16)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked red Sichuan peppercorns
- Finely shredded zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime
- Place the salt block(s) over a low gas flame and heat for 15 minutes. Raise the flame to medium and heat another 10 minutes. Raise the flame to high and heat another 15 minutes, until it is uncomfortable to hold your hand about 2 inches from the surface of the block for longer than 3 seconds (approximately 500°F).
- While the salt block is heating pat the scallops dry and pull off their white gristly tendons (located on the side of the scallop) if not already removed. Coat the scallops with the olive oil and Szechuan pepper and let stand at room temperature until the salt block is hot.
- Place the scallops on the hot block. The scallops should almost skitter across the top. If they just plop there and sizzle modestly, the salt is and sear until browned and springy to the touch but still a little soft in the center, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Work in batches if your salt block cannot comfortably fit all the scallops at once.
- Remove to a platter or plates, or move the entire salt block to the table and set on an oven mitt or trivet to serve still sizzling to your guests. Scatter the citrus zest over top and drizzle with the juice. Eat immediately.
- Cesar Delgadillo