Once upon a time, approximately 5 years ago, I went to Hawaii.
My sister and I swam up to the poolside bartender and ordered neon-colored sodas studded with popping pink cherries.
I ate shaved ice, without the mung beans, and fell into a short but passionate romance with a lobster hot dog.
I fell in love with snorkeling until I locked eyes with fish who appeared to have more teeth than I did.
I mistook a fellow tourist for a shark and we both ended up coming dangerously close to heart failure.
I counted the number of couples coming in and out of the little wedding chapel beside our resort's lagoon and chuckled as a small, inconspicuous woman picked up the rose petals after each five-minute ceremony, only to recycle them for the next couple's exit mere moments later.
Those easy, island days overflowed with what are now some of my fondest memories, but perhaps the most magical moments of that tropical escape were those spent outside a very small shrimp shack, eating the most incredible coconut shrimp of my life.
Up until that moment, where we stumbled upon a less than luxurious little beach-side shack, I had never met with a coconut shrimp I liked. But with one bite, everything changed.
The shrimp, caught that very day, were sugary-sweet, and the coconut crust was as light, golden, and tropical as you could dare to hope.
The past few weeks, the vacation urge has been strong, and with life bringing a bit more baggage than I would like, my mind is often fading into fantasies of hopping on a plane with my sweetheart and spending our days sipping frozen drinks poolside and stalking sea turtles.
For now, however, those dreams are just dreams, but that does not mean that the charms of the tropics are entirely out of reach.
Because scallops are, without a doubt, my favorite food in this world, I swapped my shrimp for a pound of those magical, sea medallions.
Their natural sweetness melds so delightfully with the coconut crust.
A drizzle of spicy honey and I am transported back to that tiny shack.
Here's to bringing a bit of vacation into our work week!
COCONUT FRIED SCALLOPS
SPICY LIME-HONEY REDUCTION
FOR THE SPICY LIME & HONEY REDUCTION
- 3/4 cup clover honey
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1-2 minutes; until the honey has thickened just slightly.
Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the scallops.
FOR THE SCALLOPS
- 1 lb large sea scallops
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, plus extra for seasoning
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 quarts vegetable oil
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.
Pour vegetable oil into a deep fryer or a high-sided skillet and attach a thermometer. Heat the oil to 360 degrees F. While the oil is heating, prepare the breading station.
Lay out three medium bowls. In the first bowl, combine cornstarch and fine salt. In the second bowl, add eggs and beat well. Place the panko and shredded coconut in the third bowl and toss to combine.
Working one at a time, toss scallops in the cornstarch mixture and shake to remove any excess. Coat well in the beaten eggs, then toss in the panko and coconut mixture, patting the breading ever so gently so that it adheres to the scallops.
Lay the coated scallops on a large platter.
Once the oil has come to temperature, fry the scallops, 2-3 at a time, for 1-2 minutes. The cook time will vary somewhat depending on the size of your scallops. The crust should be deep golden brown in color.
Transfer the fried scallops to a cooling rack and sprinkle with fine salt. Drizzle lightly with the cooled honey reduction and serve immediately.