My friend and co-worker Chris Stepler is a man of many talents: Textile artist, maritime historian, skilled sailor and handyman. Plus he knows his way around the kitchen (and the bar). Although we come from different backgrounds, we both were born and raised in well-known fishing communities. While I grew up among the old wooden Eastern-rig draggers of Gloucester, Chris is from the home of the Western-rig draggers of Stonington Connecticut. On his last visit back home, he picked up a present for me that left my mouth agape: A pound of some of the best sea scallops you can get.
Bomster scallops are large, hand-shucked sea scallops that are vacuum-packed and flash frozen on the boat within an hour. Bomster’s are also what you would call “dry” scallops, they are rinsed, but not saturated in water to increase their weight. I’ve worked in restaurants where the scallops were more water than meat, which is a tragedy. They also don’t use sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) to make them last longer. Once thawed, these scallops are like you shucked them yourself!
Although Bomster scallops have quite a following along with awards, the company does not have a large internet presence. There is a Facebook page for their scallops and an unofficial page for their small but popular market: Stonington Seafood Harvesters. It is a family-run business that runs two good-looking modern scallop draggers and they let their product do most of the talking. I don’t know about you…but I’m all ears.
Seafood Review: Bomster Scallops
This was a one-pound package of sea scallops purchased at their honor-system market in Stonington, Connecticut. The scallops were frozen and vacuum sealed at sea aboard one of the Bomster family’s vessels. The clear plastic allowed for close inspection of the scallops inside. One small paper label mentioned the company and the weight.
The package contained 11 big sea scallop that were clean and “dry” not dried out. They were in pristine condition, looking freshly shucked and good enough to eat as is. I could not resist the temptation and I popped one of the smaller scallops in my mouth raw. If you never had a a fresh, raw scallop I suggest you try it. They have many of the same qualities as a fresh raw oyster. The Bomster raw scallop was briny, sweet and fresh. It was hard not to eat another scallop raw, but I new my patience would be rewarded with some local comfort food. Much like how we like our baked haddock in New England, with lots of butter and cracker crumbs, baked scallops can be seen in many of our local old-school seafood restaurants.
Some places jazz it up a bit with a splash of sherry, cream and various herbs, but these scallops were so good and fresh I figured it was best to keep it on the simpler side.
The Recipe: New England Baked Scallops
- 1 pound sea scallops
- 20-24 Ritz brand crackers
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Lemon zest
- fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 325F. Place scallops in a greased casserole. Combine the other ingredients in a food processor and pulse into coarse crumbs. Top the scallops with the crumbs and cook covered for about 20 minutes. Uncover and cook another 10-15 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
Cooking the scallops like this should give you a hot golden topping but still leaves them mostly raw in the center. If you like scallops more well done, cook at 350F for about the same time.
The scallops were melt in your mouth good and I’m glad I didn’t overdo it with flavorings. The star of the show were the big, meaty scallops that were just barely cooked. Over cooked scallops can be chewy and stringy, these were tender and sweet. These were excellent sea scallops, some of the best I’ve had in a long, long time. I highly recommend Bomster scallops…if you can find them!
A huge thank you goes out to Chris for bringing these treasures and introducing me to some of the best scallops around! I recommend checking out Chris’ handiwork over at his website.