Seared Diver Scallops

Seared Diver Scallops over root vegetable mash.

Seared diver scallops are simple to make at home.  All you need are good U 10 scallops and about 10 minutes.  The root vegetable mash is equally easy to make when you use a food processor for the puree.  Plus, get tips for choosing the best seafood.

whole head of garlic to roast and parsnips and rutabaga to prep.

Do You Go Out For Valentine’s Day?

There are holidays where dining out is widely accepted as the norm, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day come to mind.  The problem is that you have to make reservations weeks in advanceand if you don’t shame on you, because you’ll be either be sitting in a booth at Denny’s or waiting in an out-the-door-line at your cities’ favorite hot-spot.  The thing is, even once you’re seated — you’re not treated — it’s strictly a get ’em in and get ’em out mentality.  

Turning Tables

These holidays are so busy for the restaurant industry, that most will want to turn the tables 3 or even 4 times a night if they can.  Usually, you’ll get average food at high prices, served with a bottle of cheap sparkling wine (included in your meal if you’re seated before 6 p.m. {can you hear the dripping saracasm in my voice?}).  Going out on these occasions is loud and chaotic and invariably, the kitchen runs out of one or two specials before you get a chance to order.  Like the Seared Diver Scallops. They ALWAYS run out, therefore, our preference is to skip the hassle and opt for something really special at home… Note, I said special, not difficult.

Chopped parsnips and rutabaga for root vegetable mash.

This simple recipe has three components: the diver scallops, the root vegetable mash and the herb sauce.  You can make the vegetables and sauce ahead of time, but the U 10 scallops need to be cooked à la minute, or at the last minute.  If you’re making this for Valentine’s Day or a special date night, do the vegetable and herb sauce prep earlier in the day (or even the day before). 

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fresh herbs for herb sauce and steps to make root vegetable mash.

Ingredients For Root Vegetable Mash

  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnips
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Buttermilk
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper

How To Make Root Vegetable Mash

  1. Cut the top off a head of garlic and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Wrap the head of garlic in tin foil and roast until soft and caramelized.
  3. Peel and chop the rutabaga and parsnips.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the rutabaga and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Add the parsnips and simmer for an additional 12-15 minutes or until tender.
  6. Drain the vegetables and transfer to the food processor.
  7. Add the broth and pulse to break down the vegetables.
  8. Separate the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor.
  9. Add the salt pepper and buttermilk and puree until silky smooth.
  10. Taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.
Fresh U 10 scallops on a tray.

Tips for Choosing Diver Scallops

  • When choosing these succulent shellfish (especially for a special occasion), shop at a reputable fish monger.
  • Try to buy fresh (never frozen) Diver scallops, ones that are harvested by hand.
  • Scallops should be smooth and creamy looking with no fishy or chemical odor to them.
  • As a rule, I avoid the standard grocery store because their seafood is never as fresh as what you can get at the fish market and even if it “looks ok,” it’s likely that they’ve been soaked in phosphates, a.k.a.,  wet scallops.

Wet Vs. Dry Scallops

  • “Wet” refers to the phosphate bath that these marine mollusks are soaked in.  The phosphates act as preservatives, keeping the seafood fresher looking (and smelling) for longer than they should organically, essentially extending the shelf-life.
  • The phosphate blend is absorbed by the scallops and gives them a pure white color. Dry scallops (those that haven’t been soaked) are naturally creamy to a light tan color.
  • Wet scallops absorb the phosphates and add water weight to the fish. Since scallops are sold by the pound, you’ll pay for that water weight at the register.
  • To me, the biggest advantage of dry scallops is in the flavor and cooking.  Dry scallops will SEAR.  Wet scallops WON’T.
  • The dry are tender, sweet and just a bit briny — definitely worth the effort of sourcing them and any extra cost.

What Are U 10 Scallops?

U 10 scallops aren’t a special breed of bivalve, it’s simply a size designation — how many scallops do you get per pound.  If it’s labeled U 10 that means 10 scallops weighs one pound.  Think about that. Each one of these scallops is 1/10 of a pound.  That’s big, folks.  Three to four scallops per serving is very generous.

Seared Diver scallops in a pan.

See the sear I got on these U 10 scallops?  Just a screaming hot pan and a little olive oil will start the Maillard reaction (browning). You’re not gonna get that kind of browning with the wet variety.

Green sauce in a bowl with a spoon dipping into it.

Sauce It Up!

This herbaceous, green sauce is just the thing to top off the Diver scallops and root vegetable mash. It’s bright and lively. If you enjoy a little heat, you could also add a pinch of red pepper flakes before pureeing the herbs. If you have any leftover, drizzle it over a piece of grilled chicken or steamed potatoes… really good.

plating seared u 10 scallops over the root vegetables.

Platings and Pairings

To plate the seared diver scallops, make a bed of root vegetable mash and arrange the seared seafood on top, then nap it lightly with the green sauce. Enjoy this with a creamy, buttery Chardonnay or a crisp, light Pinot Gris.

Beautifully seared diver scallops over root vegetable mash.

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Seared scallops on mash.
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4.70 from 10 votes

Seared Diver Scallops with Root Vegetable Mash

Perfect for a special occasion, the root vegetable mash and herb sauce compliment the seafood in this dish.  Use fresh diver scallops to get a good sear.  
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword scallops, valentines day
Dietary Restrictions Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Paleo, Pescatarian
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4



  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound parsnips peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 rutabaga peeled to remove wax and cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk well shaken, plus more if needed


  • 1 cup italian parsley leaves packed
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves packed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • ½ cup olive oil


  • 1 pound fresh “dry scallops” preferably U10-15 (aka Diver Scallops)
  • sprinkle kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil



  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees. With a sharp knife cut the top 1/2″ off the flowering end of the garlic (not the root). Place the garlic in a square of tin foil. Drizzle the olive oil over the exposed cloves and seal the tin foil around the head of garlic. Bake for 25 minutes until soft. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, fill a large pot halfway with cool water. Transfer the rutabaga to the pot. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 25 minutes. Add the parsnips and cook an additional 12-15 minutes until tender. Drain vegetables and transfer to a food processor. Add the vegetable stock and puree until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally (this may take several minutes). Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves to release the soft interior and add them to the puree. Add 6 tablespoons buttermilk and puree until both garlic and buttermilk are fully incorporated — add more buttermilk by the tablespoon if the mash appears dry and pulse. Set aside. (Can be made in advance and reheated at the last minute).


  • Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the blender. Pulse several times to chop the herbs, scraping sides with a spatula. Add the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil and blend until emulsified. Pour into a small bowl or pitcher and set aside. (Can be made in advance. Serve at room temperature.)


  • Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil — it should slick across the surface. If it smokes immediately, remove it from the flame for 20-30 seconds to cool it. Carefully add the scallops 2-3 at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes to sear it. Using tongs, flip the scallops and cook for an additional 45 seconds to a minute. Transfer the scallops to a plate and continue to cook the remaining scallops in the same manner.


  • Place one or two scoops of the mash on the plate. Top with 3 seared scallops and drizzle the herb dressing over the scallops and vegetables. Serve.


Many markets sell diver scallops – but beware.  Ask the purveyor if they are wet or dry scallops? Wet scallops have been soaked in phosphates to preserve them, but the scallops also soak up additional water, making it impossible to get a good sear.
Dry scallops are never soaked and will produce a beautiful sear every time. Avoid wet scallops if you can.


Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 1919mg | Potassium: 1170mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 460IU | Vitamin C: 52.3mg | Calcium: 189mg | Iron: 3mg

Pin “Seared Diver Scallops with Root Vegetable Mash” For Later!

Love seared Diver scallops? They're easy to make and go great with a tasty root vegetable mash and tangy herb sauce. Use dry U 10 Scallops for a great sear! #diverscallops #u10scallops #rootvegetablemash

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  1. 5 stars
    I am with you, I also consider Valentine’s – and the week before and after – to be amateurish. My husband and I each take turn cooking a nice meal at home. We both love to cook so why not? I was actually thinking about doing something with scallops for my meal this year, and I think this post has won me over!

  2. 5 stars
    I’m in total agreement with you on all counts. Cooking a nice dinner at home for Valentines Day is way better than fighting the crowds. And, doing as much prep ahead of time is another thing I love about this dish. Looks awesome!

  3. 5 stars
    Those scallops are seared to perfection and that mash sounds amazing! Can’t wait to make this recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    I never made scallops at home (it’s quite hard to find around here, but possible), but your recipe looks delicious and easy enough for me to try, I just love scallops! Thanks for a great recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    I am all about not going out for Valentine’s Day! It’s so much more fun and intimate to enjoy a nice dinner at home like these pan-seared scallops!

  6. Luci's Morsels says:

    This looks amazing! I am definitely going to have to try this, as soon as my mouth stops watering!

  7. I absolutely love scallops. You have inspired me! Thanks for sharing this recipe

  8. That looks simply amazing, Lisa! Scallops are among my all time favorite meals! I agree, we never go out on Valentine’s Day!

    1. Mine, too Beth! I love them because they taste like the sea and they’re so meaty!

  9. 5 stars
    Wow you got an amazing sear on those scallops! Beautiful! Love that root veggie puree too! And that sauce is fabulous, I love that you used cilantro in it.

    1. Emily, the key to getting a good sear (aside from a hot pan) is using dry scallops. Be sure to ask your fishmonger. Wet scallops will steam, not sear — ever.

  10. Beth Berger says:

    5 stars
    Yum! My husband and I have been watching tons of Master Chef and they always seem to be making scallops. I’ve gotta start making them for us and this seems like a great place to start. 🙂