Many special occasion meals fall into that category because of their inherent complexity.  Lots of steps, specialty ingredients or both may be involved.  One of my ultimate meals for a special occasion is seared scallops with a simple butter sauce.  It looks and tastes like it is involved and time consuming, but it truly could not be easier or faster.

Scallops take only a few minutes to cook.  Any more and they will be overdone and chewy.  This particular rendition includes a butter sauce that is both a little sweet and slightly spicy – so simple, and so very good.  Served with some wilted spinach or roasted broccoli and your favorite starchy side (perhaps a rice pilaf or au gratin potatoes), you have a meal that will be sure to impress.  If you are still looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day idea that won’t take a ton of time or ingredients, this is the answer.

  • Yield 3-4 servings


  • 1½ lbs. sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. sweet chile sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. clarified butter*
  • ¼ cup white wine, such as sauvignon blanc


  • 01

    Pat the scallops dry on both sides with paper towels.  Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  • 02

    In a small bowl, combine the room temperature butter, chile sauce and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mixed together until evenly blended.  Set aside.

  • 03

    Heat a large skillet on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add the clarified butter and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the scallops to the pan in a single layer and let cook without flipping or stirring for 2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, just until cooked through. Remove the scallops to a plate.

  • 04

    Add the wine to the now empty pan to deglaze any browned bits from the bottom.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  When the wine has mostly bubbled off, add in the chili butter mixture.  Stir just until melted.  Serve the scallops warm with a bit of the butter sauce drizzled over the top.

  • 05

    *To make clarified butter, let butter melt slowly in a small saucepan.  Once the milk solids have separated from the butter, carefully skim the solids from the top and discard.  The remaining liquid butter is what you will use.