Living in North Central Florida has its advantages: beach weather year-round, living within two hours to the “Happiest Place on Earth,” award winning golf courses and water ways filled with the fresh catch of the day! In this edition of We Tried It, we snapped on our masks, snorkel and fins and dove right in to try our hands at scalloping.
We ventured into Crystal River, a cozy little town just southwest of Gainesville on the Gulf of Mexico. Once we loaded up the boat with all our gear, we launched off for a gorgeous day on the water. After a twenty to thirty-minute ride, we arrived at where we would first drop anchor to hunt down our scallops. A few of us had been scalloping before so they gave the newbies a quick lesson of how far from the boat you can go, what we should be looking for, and how to ensure a scallop doesn’t clamp down on your finger. We threw on our gear and headed into the warm and calm waters to find our dinner!
Since it was the end of the season, it was a slow start at finding these little guys down in the sea grass as they were not as abundant as we heard they were in the beginning of the season. So, it took some of us quite a while to find just one, but, once they began to pop out of the sand and grass, and we got the hang of it, it was exciting to snatch it up and add to the growing pile in the bucket. Scallop shells are quite beautiful and if you were able to catch them while they were open, you saw an almost iridescent blue line on the top and bottom rims of the shell that were the scallop’s eyes.
Once we had picked over a couple areas and collected a bucket full of scallops, not near what our legal limits were, but still, plenty for us and with a looming storming heading our way, we decided to head back towards the marina, but not before taking a side trip to a sweet little natural fresh water spring to wash off our salt and shuck our scallops. Shucking is an art form and not for those with weak stomachs, as the edible part is protected by a “snot like mucus” that will make you stop in your tracks if not ready for it! A few of us were pros at this, and armed with a dull shucking knife, they started by prying open the shell and scrapping the coating off the actual meat of the scallop, and after tossing the shell and all but the scallop aside, we finally saw what we had worked so hard for, a perfect, white round ball of meat!
After getting home, we threw our fresh and shucked scallops in a strainer to clean before cooking and then tossed them in a sauté pan with some white wine, garlic and butter and cooked them for seven or eight minutes and then we promptly enjoyed them!
In a nutshell: Scalloping is a great day to spend with friends hunting down the freshest seafood dinner you could have and enjoying the wonderful weather Florida has to offer!