While most people leave it to the chefs, cooking and enjoying Alaskan scallops is a lot more approachable than you think. What’s more, this shellfish of Alaskan waters is high in protein and low in fat with a sweet and buttery taste that lavishes the palate — making it hard to just reserve it for nights out and special occasions.
Harvesting Alaskan Weathervane Scallops
Alaska goes far and beyond to protect the sustainability of weathervane scallops (Patinopecten caurinus) within the state, which also happen to be some of the plumpest on the planet. They’re also sometimes called giant Pacific scallops.
Together with the federal government, the state jointly monitors harvest levels under a special program called the Alaska Scallop Fishery Management Plan. This series of measures includes onboard observers required on all commercial scallop vessels to collect data.
Consequently, an independent observer is always onboard the fishing vessel to ensure that the fishers are harvesting the scallops correctly. The program also monitors the rotation of sourcing areas once guideline harvest levels have been met for the season.
Adequate rotation ensures that every scallop bed is left to regrow what the fishers dredge in a particular area.
Weathervane Scallops 101
Similar to clams and oysters, scallops are a bivalve mollusk with an interior muscle surrounded by two shells. But what makes scallops different is their ability to swim away from predators by rapidly opening and closing their shell.
This physical movement builds their adductor muscle (just think of it as the hinge between the shells) to be larger in comparison to other species, and also happens to be the delicious part we love to eat.
Scallops found at seafood counters and restaurants fall into two categories: bay scallops are caught in shallow waters and are often smaller in size, and sea scallops are harvested from deep and cold-sea waters.
Weathervane fall into the category of sea scallops, which are known to be three times the size of their bay counterparts.
Where Are Weathervane Scallops Found?
In Alaska, the largest weathervane scallop beds occur in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. They can be seen from California to as far west as the Aleutian Islands, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and game.
More specifically, we know that the harvest locations of Weathervane scallops differ from year-to-year. They are typically harvested along the southern coast of Alaska in Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and out in the Bering Sea.
They are found in depths of up to 400 feet, on mud, sand or gravel.
Nutritional Benefits of Weathervane Scallops
Similar to other fish and seafood, weathervane scallops are a great source of nutrients.
Especially high in protein while being very low in fat and calories, they have an impressive nutritional profile. They contain Vitamin B12, which is believed to help in the production of red blood cells and DNA while supporting a healthy nervous system.
They have omega-3 fatty acids that are great for aiding in brain health. And their magnesium and potassium may help keep your heart healthy. In addition, weathervane scallops are packed with Selenium, Copper, Zinc and Calcium.
How to Cook Alaskan Weathervane Scallops
Weathervane scallops have a versatile texture and flavor profile that lend them to pan sear recipes or prominent features in a sauté.
Scallop meat has a rich, almost sweet flavor that compliments everything from mushrooms to parsnips.
When purchased, scallops come either wet or dry. Wet scallops are soaked in chemicals and salt additives to retain water weight and make the flesh appear larger than it actually is (sometimes by 30%!). They usually shrink in size when cooked and are hard to sear.
Dry scallops are sold in their original state and haven’t been treated with any chemicals.
Cooking Wild Alaskan Company Weathervane Scallops
Our wild-caught and sustainable weathervane scallops are dry, making them preservative-free and easier to cook.
Thaw out your pack of weathervane scallops all at once before you plan to cook it. We recommend first removing the scallops from its packaging to allow airflow and prevent the growth of bacteria.
Then, place them on a shallow dish in the fridge for approximately 10-12 hours before you're planning to cook. Before cooking, pat your scallops down with a paper towel.
We recommend searing your weathervane scallops on a hot pan undisturbed for a few minutes on each side until the tops and bottoms are brown and caramelized.
Because weathervane scallops already have so much flavor, we recommend you cook them simply; and be sure not to overcrowd the pan. They go great with herbed brown butter or even just the pan sauce.
Weathervane Scallop Recipe Ideas
1. Scallop Mousse with Fresh Basil
It’s time to switch out your favorite salmon mousse with this scallop mousse dish. In fact, this recipe is so good even Julia Child loved it.
It not only looks beautiful, both plated individually or served family style, but it’s also just different enough (but not too weird) to wow your guests. Plate it in smaller servings with a madeleine pan to serve as passed hors d'oeuvres, or use a copper scallop shell to serve it as a stationary selection that will look almost too good to eat.
If you’re still deciding on an appetizer to serve, then this scallop-spinach spread is a must. One way to think of it is as a spinach artichoke dip that’s been elevated to the max with loads of extra protein (and flavor) thanks to the weathervane scallops.
While your guests might think they know what they’re sinking their teeth into, their reaction at first bite will be sure to make for a perfect picture to laugh at for years.
Sea Scallop, Flat-Leaf Parsley & White Wine Cashew Cream Sauce Pizza
We like to think that there’s no occasion where pizza isn’t welcomed. Its toppings and ingredients can be adjusted for every palate or dietary regimen, and it’s fun to eat at every age. And that’s why this recipe with scallops and white wine cashew cream sauce is on our list for our holiday get together.
Whether it’s served as a fun option at the kid’s table or a palate cleanser between rounds of turkey and stuffing, we can’t imagine anyone saying no to a slice, regardless of how full they are!
Baked Scallops and Shells
For an epic dish that can be a refreshing change to mac n’ cheese, this baked scallops and shells recipe is sure to be a hit. Think of it as an opulent twist on tuna casserole, with scallops instead of canned fish, and rich Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar. Each gooey warm bite is sure to bring delight with scallops, pasta, cheese and bread crumbs.
Where To Buy Weathervane Scallops
If you’re looking to buy sustainably sourced Weathervane Scallops, look no further than Wild Alaskan Company.
These are sometimes included in our monthly subscription boxes, along with other wild-caught seafood native to Alaska. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our How It Works page, along with the Pricing page.