Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc

Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc
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About This Recipe

When one thinks of the rolling vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, wine is often the first thing that comes to mind. But nestled within these verdant valleys is a culinary world waiting to be explored, one which draws inspiration from its rich soils, Mediterranean climate, and of course, its wines. Among such delectable treasures is a dish that I believe exemplifies the essence of our beloved wine country: Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc.

The origins of this dish trace back to the sun-kissed shores of California, where the bounty of the Pacific meets the refined palate of wine country. Scallop, with its sweet, delicate meat, is reminiscent of a quiet day on the coast, where the sound of waves gently kissing the sand sets the backdrop for a seafood feast. To this, we introduce a beurre blanc, a classic French sauce, but with a twist only California can provide: the fragrant infusion of vanilla bean.

Now, let's talk about wine. The art of pairing is much like a dance, where two partners move together in harmony. The rich, buttery texture of the scallops, juxtaposed against the aromatic notes of vanilla, beckons for a wine with both depth and vivacity. A well-oaked Napa Chardonnay, such as the ones from Cakebread Cellars, is an excellent choice. Its inherent buttery undertones beautifully complement the dish, rendering each bite a symphony of flavors.

For those who prefer a classic pairing, the floral notes of a Viognier, especially from renowned producers like Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, can mirror the vanilla essence in the beurre blanc. The wine's bright acidity forms a tantalizing contrast, ensuring that each mouthful remains fresh and inviting.

But wine pairing is not just about playing safe. For the adventurous souls, a zesty Grüner Veltliner, such as the ones from Stony Hill Vineyard in Napa, offers a unique balance. Its citrus quality, combined with hints of white pepper, elevates the dish to new culinary heights.

Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc is not just a recipe. It is a testament to the diversity and richness of Napa and Sonoma's culinary scene. Whether enjoyed in a quaint bistro overlooking the vineyards or in the cozy confines of your home, this dish promises a gustatory journey through California's wine country. If you're ever visiting, make sure to stop by local grocers and wineries like Far Niente Winery or Robert Mondavi Winery to pick up some of the region's best wines to accompany your meal.

For those who've not yet had the privilege of exploring our beautiful wine country, I hope this dish offers a glimpse of its magic. And for us, the locals, it serves as a reminder of the culinary wonders that our homeland holds. So the next time you're setting your table, remember, with the right ingredients, techniques, and of course, wine, every meal can be a journey through the heart of Napa and Sonoma.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Vanilla Bean

Napa Valley's culinary scene draws inspiration from its rich soils, temperate climate, and the passionate local chefs who blend Californian resources with global techniques. The vanilla bean is no exception. Often viewed merely as a background flavor, the vanilla bean shines brightly in the Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc dish. Native to the orchid family, this fragrant pod, when sourced responsibly and organically, adds a distinctive depth of flavor and an alluring aroma. Its floral and sweet notes elevate the richness of the beurre blanc, pairing splendidly with the succulence of the seared scallops. As wine country continues to embrace diverse ingredients, vanilla bean undoubtedly takes its deserved place at the forefront.

How to Perfectly Sear Scallops

Achieving the perfect sear on scallops is an art form that can elevate your dish to restaurant-quality standards. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Preparation: Start by ensuring your scallops are as dry as possible. Pat them down using a paper towel.
  2. Heat: In a non-stick skillet or cast-iron pan, heat a mix of butter and high-smoke point oil (like grapeseed) over medium-high heat. Wait till the butter is foamy and slightly browned.
  3. Placement: Gently place the scallops in the pan, ensuring they are not touching. This ensures even cooking.
  4. Sear: Allow the scallops to sear undisturbed for about 1-2 minutes until a golden crust forms.
  5. Flip & Finish: Turn the scallops and let them cook for another 1-2 minutes. They should be slightly translucent in the center for the best texture.


  1. Can I store leftover Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc? Absolutely! Although best enjoyed fresh, you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
  2. I'm allergic to shellfish; can I substitute another protein? Certainly. While the recipe was designed with scallops in mind, feel free to use chicken or tofu for an equally delightful experience.
  3. Can I use vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean? While vanilla bean provides a distinct depth of flavor, you can substitute with a teaspoon of high-quality vanilla extract if beans are unavailable.
  4. What other tools can help perfect the searing of scallops? A cast-iron skillet retains heat beautifully, aiding in achieving a uniform sear. Using a kitchen thermometer can also ensure the pan is at the right temperature.
  5. Is there a specific type of scallop best suited for this dish? Sea scallops, given their size and meaty texture, are ideal. Ensure they are fresh and sourced sustainably.

Tips for Success

  1. Temperature Control: Ensure scallops are at room temperature before searing. This ensures even cooking and prevents them from becoming rubbery.
  2. Sauce Consistency: When preparing your Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc, continuous whisking on low heat is essential. This prevents the sauce from splitting and maintains a silky texture.
  3. Pair with Balance: When choosing wines, aim for those that will complement the rich and sweet notes of the dish. As mentioned, an oaked Napa Chardonnay or a floral Viognier can be perfect companions.

Recipe Overview

Seared Scallops & Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc
Lily Anderson
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 12 large sea scallops, muscle removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup dry white wine, preferably from Napa Valley
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped (for garnish)

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Scallops: Dry the scallops thoroughly using paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the scallops, ensuring they're not touching. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side until they have a golden crust and are slightly translucent in the center. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc: Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using the back of a knife.
  4. In a saucepan, combine the white wine, shallots, and vanilla bean seeds. Bring to a boil and reduce until only about 2 tablespoons of liquid remain.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, and add the heavy cream. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
  6. Slowly whisk in the butter, one cube at a time, ensuring each cube is fully melted before adding the next. The sauce should be smooth and velvety.
  7. Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve to remove the shallots and ensure a smooth consistency.
  8. Plating: Place the seared scallops on individual plates or a serving platter. Generously spoon the vanilla bean beurre blanc over the scallops. Garnish with chopped chives.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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