The most interesting thing about the scallop is its eyes. (You probably didn't know scallops even had eyes. Well, they do.) The eyes are very tiny, and occur along the curved edges of the shell, just inside, about one eye per shell corrugation. Each eye is rather remarkably like a certain kind of reflecting telescope complete with a spherical mirror to reflect incoming light rays onto a retina, after being corrected for spherical aberration by passing through a lens whose shape is, incredibly, a Cartesian oval.

I swear I'm not making this up. You can look it up yourself in Richard Dawkins's extremely interesting book, Climbing Mount Improbable

Scallop, interestingly, has several food-related meanings; I'll deal with the (eyed) bivalve mollusk first, and then speak briefly about the others.

Bivalve refers to the fact that the scallop has two shells, like its cousins the oyster and the clam, but the scallop shell is distinguished by its attractiveness. Scallop shells are lovely fan-shaped affairs, often used as serving dishes for Coquilles St. Jacques. Mollusk is one of the two main culinary classifications of shellfish, the other being crustacean.

In North America we tend to eat only the adductor muscle of the scallop, the part that hinges the two shells together, but all parts of the scallop (except the shell) are in fact edible, including the roe. (What we don't eat many Europeans relish.) In North America, at least, the many species of scallops are generally classified into two groups, bay and sea. Bay scallops come from the east coast and are tiny (perhaps 1/2" in diameter), sweet, and succulent - and the more expensive. They are in season in the fall. Sea scallops are about 1-1/2" in diameter, chewier, and less expensive, though still sweet and moist. They are in season from midfall to midspring.

Whichever type you buy, they should have a sweet smell, moist sheen, and sticky feeling if you touch them. Scallops vary in colour from ivory to pinkish beige to tan, or even slightly grey, but should never be stark white; if they are, they've been soaked in a water and phosphate mixture to increase their weight and make them last longer. These soaked scallops taste inferior, and they don't brown properly, but sadly, the practice of soaking is the norm, so look for a reputable fishmonger who sells lovely coloured scallops sitting in only a little, if any, liquid, and shun the one that sells white scallops in a pool of milky juices.

Just as crab is often not crab at all, but rather haddock or pollock that bears no real resemblance to true crabmeat, unscrupulous fishmongers and restaurateurs are apparently substituting skate or shark meat for scallops, using a cookie cutter to stamp out scallop-shaped pieces of seafood. If you find a scallop which has a grainy, striated texture, you've probably got a faux scallop. I advise you to march up to the cad, cry "For shame!", and take your scallop business elsewhere in the future.

And what of the other culinary scallops?

Scallop also refers to a thin, boneless, round or oval slice of meat or fish. It's usually breaded and quickly sauteed. Think veal scaloppine or escalope.

To scallop means to layers slices of a food with cream sauce and bake it in a casserole, usually topped with crumbs: scalloped potatoes, my childhood favourite.

Finally, to scallop can also mean to form a decorative edge which is crimped or fluted, as on the raised rim of a pie crust.

Scal"lop [OF. escalope a shell, probably of German or Dutch origin, and akin to E. scale of a fish; cf. D. schelp shell. See Scale of a fish, and cf. Escalop.] [Written also scollop.]

1. Zool.

Any one of numerous species of marine bivalve mollusks of the genus Pecten and allied genera of the family Pectinidae. The shell is usually radially ribbed, and the edge is therefore often undulated in a characteristic manner. The large adductor muscle of some the species is much used as food. One species (Vola Jacobaeus) occurs on the coast of Palestine, and its shell was formerly worn by pilgrims as a mark that they had been to the Holy Land. Called also fan shell. See Pecten, 2.

⇒ The common edible scallop of the Eastern United States is Pecten irradians; the large sea scallop, also used as food, is P. Clontonius, or tenuicostastus.

2.

One of series of segments of circles joined at their extremities, forming a border like the edge or surface of a scallop shell.

3.

One of the shells of a scallop; also, a dish resembling a scallop shell.

 

© Webster 1913.


Scal"lop, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Scalloped (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Scalloping.]

1.

To mark or cut the edge or border of into segments of circles, like the edge or surface of a scallop shell. See Scallop, n., 2.

2. Cookery

To bake in scallop shells or dishes; to prepare with crumbs of bread or cracker, and bake. See Scalloped oysters, below.

 

© Webster 1913.

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