When one of BC’s most respected shellfish farming collectives exists only a fifteen minute ferry ride away, it’s no surprise that here in CR we get a lot of opportunities to eat pristine, local seafood. Sometimes it’s at a well-connected cafe-bistro or a shellfish festival or maybe you just know a guy who knows a guy… And that guy is Dave Ritchie.
Dave is a shellfish farmer on Quadra who, along with a handful of dedicated aquaculture enthusiasts like the Out-Landish Shellfish Guild and the fine folks at Sawmill Bay produce some of the most pristine seafood on Vancouver Island. Oysters from this region (and don’t forget Denman Island!) are sought out, by name in oyster bars across North America and beyond.
I met Dave at work *laughs* in the middle of the dinner rush actually! He had reached out to us with an offer to sell us some of those aforementioned oysters, but had also brought along samples of his absurdly-beautiful Pacific scallops. As I surveyed his mountain of mollusks my friend and co-worker Patti lifted out a single monster shell nearly 14cm (that’s five and a half inches) across and heavy as an ipad!
Luckily I had some prior experience popping fresh scallops and with a couple ‘o quick tips from Dave we had sixty done in little over half an hour:
Popping Scallops In Four Easy Steps
- Step 1 – Lay the rounded half of the scallop shell in your palm so the flat end faces up. Grab a thin, non-serrated knife to do the deed; Dave suggested a butter knife, but if you really want to impress your family, or a crowd of industry friends go for a wickedly sharp fillet knife. It’s so badass.
- Step 2 – Insert the knife into the small opening next to the scallop’s hinge only about an inch and run it along the edge of the shell. This trick usually severs just enough of the outer bits of the scallop to make it open up a bit, allowing you to take your time cutting out the actual meat. Once it’s open a crack (or if it stubbornly refuses to do so) it’s time to get real: Lay the edge of your knife flush as you can against the flat interior of the shell and slide it all the way through. This cuts the meat of the beast and the shell will pop all the way open.
- Step 3 – Pull off the empty half of the shell and place your knife flat as can be against the remaining rounded half of the shell. Repeat the same motion as in Step 2, but take care to keep pressing the blade into the rounded shell. The closer to the shell you are the less meat is wasted. The whole scallop, gut’s ‘n all will slide free of the shell.
- Step 4 – Pull the dark coloured organs away from the white flesh of the scallop and carefully remove the roe sack if it’s got one. Some people save the roe sack and consider it a delicacy, some discard it… Your call. Wash the scallop flesh in cold water and pick off any clotted bits of grossness still hanging around.
Pacific scallops are big, really freakin big! Once the guts and roe were removed they still rocked a tall, solid profile around 2-3 ounces apiece. Of course these babies were wild so like a big basket of scrumpy peppers at the farmer’s market they each had a slightly different size and colour. When the processing was finished both Patti and I had a densely-packed bucket of bivalves to bring home to our respective families.
Next week I’ll fire up my favourite scallop recipe, but in the mean time you gotta get out there and get a piece of the action! Now, when the winter waters are most frigid is when shellfish are at their best. Hit up your local seafood purveyor, or your favourite cafe-bistro or your guy who knows a guy ‘cause this window of opportunity is only open for a short period of time… And who knows what the future of aquaculture will be…