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Grilled Sea Scallops with Cilantro & Black Bean Sauce
“Here, Chinese fermented black beans are stir-fried with garlic and ginger, flavor-enhanced with Chinese or Japanese rice wine, and blended into a delicate puree that makes a delicious dip to complement all sorts of grilled seafood, including plump sea scallops. Sweet mirin counterbalances the saltiness of the beans.”
2 tablespoons fermented black beans (see Note) or 1 tablespoon black bean-garlic sauce (see Note)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
⅓ cup Shao Hsing rice wine (see Note) or Japanese sake
¼ cup mirin, (see Note)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed, plus sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1½ pounds (24-30) large dry sea scallops, (see Note)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1If using fermented black beans, place them in a small bowl, cover with water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse.
2Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until light golden and fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the black beans (or black bean-garlic sauce) and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Carefully pour in rice wine (or sake), mirin and sesame oil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, lightly crushing the black beans, until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
3Preheat grill to high.
4Put cilantro, lemon juice and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a blender; process until smooth. Transfer the marinade to a large bowl, add scallops and gently toss to coat with the marinade. Divide the scallops among 6 skewers, spacing about ½ inch apart. Season with pepper. (Discard marinade.) Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Grill the scallops until golden and crisp on the edges and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with the black bean sauce and garnish with cilantro sprigs.
Make Ahead Tip: The sauce (Steps 1-2) will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Equipment: Six 10-inch skewers
Notes: Fermented black beans, oxidized soybeans that are salt-dried, have a savory, salty and slightly bitter flavor. They are frequently used in Chinese stir-fries, marinades and sauces. Before using, they should be soaked in water for 10 to 30 minutes to get rid of excess salt. When purchasing fermented black beans, look for shiny and firm beans (avoid dull and dry beans with salt spots). Once open, store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
Black bean-garlic sauce, made from pureed salted and fermented black soybeans, is a widely used condiment in Chinese cooking and can be found with the Asian food in most supermarkets.
Shao hsing (or Shaoxing) is a seasoned rice wine available in many Asian specialty markets and some large supermarkets. Japanese sake or dry sherry are acceptable substitutes.
Mirin is a low-alcohol rice wine essential to Japanese cooking. Look for it in your supermarket with the Asian or gourmet ingredients. An equal portion of sherry or white wine with a pinch of sugar may be substituted.
We prefer “dry” sea scallops (not treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, or STP). Scallops treated with STP (“wet” scallops) are mushy, less flavorful and will not brown properly.
Tip: How to oil a grill rack: Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)