Duke Moscrip, owner of Duke’s Chowder House, is not big on eating raw fish, but he did once pop a raw scallop into his mouth while sailing with the crew of the Provider, a fishing boat based in Alaska.
They had harvested the scallop moments before.
“I’m not a big sushi person, but I just loved it,” said Moscrip, who owns five King County restaurants and one on Tacoma’s Ruston Way waterfront. “That scallop absolutely melted in my mouth. It was really buttery. It had that clean, seafood taste. I was so surprised how good it tasted. That’s how good the product is, you can eat it raw.”
That scallop was an Alaskan weathervane, which is something akin to the Copper River salmon of the bivalve world. They’re plump, larger than other scallops, with a sweet taste and buttery texture.
Weathervanes, also known as the giant Pacific scallop, are pricey and are in limited supply, which is why they’re tough to find. While East Coast fisheries harvest 30 million pounds of their scallops each year, said Moscrip, commercial fishing operations in Alaska harvest a mere 300,000 pounds of the weathervanes.
Starting Nov. 12, all of Moscrip’s restaurants will feature scallops on a limited-run menu with a half dozen specials featuring weathervanes, including the ravioli with scallops recipe featured here.
Moscrip, a restaurateur known for his allegiance to sustainable seafood for more than 20 years, answered a few questions about weathervanes, including how he likes to prepare his.
Q: Scallops elicit a visceral reaction from diners. They seem to either love or hate them. Why is that?
A: If they don’t like them, they’ve probably not had them made correctly. If you go someplace that doesn’t understand how to cook them, you’ll have people say, ‘Those are too tough.’ Well, that’s because they didn’t cook them right.
Q: You’re known for your use of only sustainable seafood in your restaurants. How does that work with scallops?
A: The boat we use, they only fish for scallops in a tiny area. They’re not damaging the environment or overfishing. Most of the scallops are coming out of the mud. The amount of coral they destroy each year, you can fit in your hand. They’re very conscious about what’s going on. When you think about it, sustainability doesn’t really cost anything, it doesn’t. It’s just being responsible, period.
Q: Sustainable fishing practices don’t increase the price of seafood?
A: The sustainability part is not necessarily more expensive. The fish that we get … we get the fish first and we do pay more for it because of that. The people I’ve chosen, the fishermen who handle their fish properly, they charge more for it. It’s a little bit more expensive.
Q: What makes the Alaskan weathervanes such a coveted scallop?
A: You don’t get that buttery taste with other scallops. Scallops are so unique and that particular scallop, hands down, is better tasting than anything you get from the East Coast. It’s a boutique scallop really.
Q: Are there any other boutique scallops anywhere else in the world that people like you flock to buy?
A: Weathervanes are it. They’re at the top of the heap there. There’s nothing that I’ve ever tasted that have been better. We’ve tried with the East Coast scallops, which I don’t dislike, but when you have the weathervanes side by side, you’ll never want anything else but a weathervane.
Q: You mentioned before that in the wrong hands, overcooking can ruin a scallop. How do you prepare yours?
A: The pan’s got to be hot enough so that you get that nice, crispy golden caramelization on the outside. And they cannot be overcooked. They cook quickly, it’s just a matter of a few minutes. … I like olive oil, butter and lemon, that’s it.
IF YOU GO
Duke’s Chowder House
WHERE: 3327 Ruston Way, Tacoma; 253-752-5444; dukeschowderhouse.com
WHAT: Alaskan weathervane scallops specials begin Nov. 12 (through Jan. 20) at all Duke’s Chowder House locations.
All Kinds Of Weathervane Alaska Scallops Ravioli
Yield: Makes 1 serving
• 7 large Alaska weathervane scallops
• 2 tablespoons Duke’s Ready Anytime Seasoning (see recipe)
• 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 7 fresh ravioli (use your favorite stuffing; Duke’s uses pumpkin and mascarpone)
• 2 tablespoons diced fresh tomatoes
• Pinch Duke’s Superb Herb Blend (see recipe)
• Pinch small diced fresh organic basil leaves, stems removed
• 1 teaspoon diced fresh garlic
• 6 roasted garlic cloves
• 2 tablespoons white wine
• ¼ cup chilled butter
Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with Duke’s Ready Anytime Seasoning. Heat two tablespoons olive oil on a flat griddle or frying pan and sear scallops on both sides until golden brown.
Meanwhile, blanch ravioli in salted boiling water until they float, about 5 minutes (7 minutes for frozen). Drain, then toss ravioli in olive oil so they don’t stick, and set aside.
In a separate pan, heat remaining olive oil and sauté tomatoes, Duke’s Superb Herb Blend, basil, garlic and roasted garlic for 2 minutes. Deglaze pan with white wine. Add cooked ravioli (for best results, ravioli should not sit longer than a minute before joining the sauce). Add butter and swirl until incorporated. Serve with sauteed zucchini or any other kind of sauteed vegetable.
Create a circle of ravioli on the plate and drizzle with sauce. Top each ravioli with one scallop.
Duke’s Ready Anytime Seasoning
Yield: Makes about 3 cups
• 1 cup Kosher salt
• 1/3 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons lemon pepper
• 1/4 cup pepper
• 1/4 cup Creole seasoning
• 1/4 cup granulated garlic
• 5 teaspoons each oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and rosemary
• 1/4 cup sugar
Mix all ingredients well and store in an airtight container.
Duke’s Superb Herb Blend
Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups
• ½ cup small diced fresh organic rosemary
• ½ cup small diced fresh organic thyme, stems removed
• ½ cup small diced fresh organic oregano, stems removed
Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
Source: Duke’s Chowder House