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Scallop Terrine With Basil, White Corn, and Roasted Red Peppers (Plus Scallop FAQs)

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A slice of tricolor scallop terrine with a seafood sauce accompaniment

A slice of tricolor scallop terrine with a seafood sauce accompaniment

Scallop Appetizer or Main Course Idea

When the temperatures outside are sizzling in Houston, Texas, and our basil plants in the garden are threatening to bolt and go to seed, it is time to make this delightful and colorful chilled terrine and accompanying seafood sauce. This beautiful dish always makes a hit with our dinner guests.

What Is a Terrine?

Terrine recipes have layered ingredients of meats, seafood, vegetables, or combinations of them and can vary widely from rustic to elegant, sweet, or savory. The elements can be pureed, minced, or even left intact, like asparagus spears. Cooking takes place in a water bath, and after it is cooled it is served in slices.

The word terrine refers not only to a type of food preparation but also the baking vessel. We have an old Corningware ceramic baking pan in which we made our tricolor scallop terrine. It is rectangular, deep, and has straight sides. Through the years, we have made loaves of bread and even meat loaves in it.


Tricolor Scallop Terrine Recipe

My husband found this recipe in a Gourmet magazine article from August 1988. He changed the recipe slightly to use white instead of yellow corn because he wanted the terrine to match an Italian-themed dinner (red, white, and green are the colors of the Italian flag).

The original recipe included a saffron mayonnaise accompaniment. In its place, my husband created a variation on shrimp cocktail sauce, substituting half-and-half for heavy cream and ketchup for chili sauce. That original shrimp cocktail sauce recipe by Deborah Mele appeared on a website called Italian Food Forever in 2002.

After trying original recipes as written, my husband often edits or combines, as he did in this case.


  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • White pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup white corn, frozen and thawed
  • 1/4 cup bottled roasted red peppers, patted dry on paper towels
  • Pam cooking spray
Ingredients for tricolor scallop terrine

Ingredients for tricolor scallop terrine


  1. Put the washed basil leaves with water still clinging to them in a small saucepan, and steam them over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until barely wilted. Drain under running cold water in a sieve, and squeeze the basil leaves dry.
  2. Rinse the scallops and pat dry. Remove and discard the bit of muscle from the side of each scallop if necessary.
  3. Put one-third of the scallops in a food processor with the basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper, and puree the mixture. With the motor running, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream and mix until everything is blended well. Transfer it to a small bowl, cover, and chill it while making the other mixtures with the corn and red pepper.
  4. After cleaning the food processor, puree the corn with half of the remaining scallops, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and some white pepper. With the motor running, add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, blend well, transfer the mixture to another small bowl, cover, and chill.
  5. In a clean food processor, puree the remaining scallops with the roasted red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and white pepper. With the motor running, add the remaining 1/3 cup heavy cream. Blend the mixture well.
  6. Liberally spray an 8 x 4 x 2 3/4-inches loaf pan with Pam. Spread the basil mixture evenly on the bottom of the pan. Top it with an even layer of corn mixture and finish it with an even layer of the roasted red pepper mixture.
  7. Cover the surface with a Pam-sprayed layer of wax paper, and then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place the loaf pan into a larger baking pan with enough hot water to come up the sides of the loaf pan about one-fourth of the way. Bake the terrine in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes, or until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Transfer the loaf pan to a rack, remove the foil, and allow the terrine to cool. When cool, remove the wax paper, place a dish over the loaf pan, and invert the terrine onto it. Remove any excess liquid with a paper towel, cover the terrine with plastic wrap, and chill for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
  9. When ready to serve, cut into slices and garnish with the seafood sauce (recipe below).

Seafood Sauce Recipe

This seafood sauce recipe is delicious with shrimp, crab, lobster, and crab cakes. It is also the perfect match adding enhancing notes of flavor to this tricolor scallop terrine dish. After you make it the first time, you may find other uses for it as well.


  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 yolk of a hard-boiled egg
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Put the mustard and egg yolk into a food processor.
  2. With the food processor running, drizzle in the lemon juice and olive oil.
  3. When combined, add the rest of the ingredients and blend until well mixed.
  4. Chill the sauce until ready to use.
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Read More From Delishably

What to Serve With Scallop Terrine

We generally serve a thinly sliced serving of tricolor scallop terrine as a separate appetizer dish accompanied by a glass of wine.

If serving a thicker slice and more of an entree serving, a leafy green salad with some good crusty bread would make a perfect meal. As pictured above, we chose a Chardonnay to have with it. Other good choices of wine would include Pinot Grigio, Lugana, Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Champagne, or sparkling wine. Let your taste buds be your guide.

A slice of tricolor scallop terrine with an accompanying glass of Chardonnay wine

A slice of tricolor scallop terrine with an accompanying glass of Chardonnay wine

What Are Scallops?

Scallops belong to the taxonomic family Pectinidae. They are bivalve mollusks found worldwide in our oceans, plus saltwater bays and estuaries.

Two hard shells encase the edible parts. Sea scallops have up to 100 bright blue eyes detecting light, dark, and motion. Those shells can open and close to propel themselves through the ocean waters. In the adult stage, they are very active swimmers! Their primary predators are sea snails, crabs, and starfish.

In the United States, we typically eat only the central white adductor muscle, but in other parts of the world, the orange section, known as coral, is also consumed.

Did you know that scallops have been in existence for over 200 million years? It is true! There are thousands of recorded ones throughout history.

Many, but not all, are hermaphrodites. That means that they contain both male and female organs.

The way they reproduce in nature is to release the sperm and eggs into the seawater. The fertilized eggs sink to the bottom next to hatch as larvae. Those larvae (called spat) then float in the rivers of ocean waters with the rest of the plankton. Finally, they settle to the bottom, attaching themselves to grasses or other items where they grow. Eventually, most of them become free-swimming, and if lucky, can live to 20 years or more.

Scallops do not have teeth. Filter feeding is how they get nutrients primarily from floating microorganisms like algae and other creatures collectively called plankton.

Health Benefits of Scallops

Scallops have many health benefits. They are a high protein, low carbohydrate, and low saturated fat food source containing many vitamins and minerals. They also contain antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.

If you are interested in maintaining a healthy heart, strong bones, healthy cognitive function, plus well-managed weight control, you might wish to add more scallops and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Learn more by reading the source links at the bottom of this page.

Fake vs. Real Scallops

Because of expenses, some restaurants serve what appears to be scallops—but are actually not. Cutout rounds of stingray, shark, or skate may be used as a substitute.

How can a person tell the difference? If you have never purchased or tasted scallops, you may not know that they do not come in perfectly round shapes like those cookie-cutter substitute versions. The real ones do have a consistent thickness, and they have fibers that run through them. The filaments will be missing in the fakes, and the thickness of the edges may vary.

Tips for Buying Fresh Scallops

If you live along the Atlantic seacoast or another part of the world where freshly harvested scallops are delivered daily to markets, you will be able to check their appearance and smell. They should have a fresh sweet smell of the ocean and be firm. If there is any fishy smell to them, look elsewhere! Most of them are a shade of white and slightly translucent.

Plan to eat them within no more than two days of purchase and keep them refrigerated on a bed of ice. The ideal time to eat them is the same day of purchase.

Dry vs. Wet-Packed Scallops

Whether buying fresh or frozen scallops, look for labels indicating that they are dry-packed or chemical-free. Wet-packed ones come in a solution containing phosphates. It makes the scallops appear more white, but it also makes them absorb more liquid. Therefore, you are essentially paying more for the water that will cook out of them. Not only that, the flavor may have a slightly soapy taste. So be sure to check those labels!

Fishing for Scallops

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with the New England Fishery Management Council, manage the amount of Atlantic sea scallop fishing allowed at any one time. Restrictions by other governing bodies are set in place depending upon where one seeks to harvest scallops, either bay or sea scallops. Those laws protect the crop for future generations and include the times when gathering scallops is permitted.

While most commercial sea scallop fishers use mechanical draggers to complete their catch, individual divers also play a vital role. Damage to flora and fauna undersea does not occur when individuals pluck the scallops from the seabed or amidst the grasses. Be sure to have the correct fishing license and know the limits ahead of time before doing this activity.

Here is a video showing deep-sea fishing for them.

What Size Scallops Are Best?

As to which scallops are best, much of it depends upon how you plan to use them. Sea scallops are those large 1 1/2 to 2-inch beauties that make lovely presentations when quickly seared or grilled. They can number anywhere from 10 up to 40 per pound, averaging 20-30 per pound.

My husband has often seared them in a pan over medium-high heat for several minutes each side in olive oil and butter until the edges are golden and the center is still tender and sweet. A splash of lemon makes a delectable entree or appetizer portion, depending upon how many comprise a serving.

Some people prefer the slightly sweeter taste of the bay scallops that are much smaller in size, numbering up to 100 in a one-pound measurement. Those are usually quickly cooked by stir-frying, poaching, etc. You will see these served in soups and other dishes. So personal flavor preference and budget come into play when selecting your favorite type.

Fresh vs. Frozen Scallops

The vast majority of the harvested scallops in the U.S. come from areas around Massachusetts and New Jersey, with smaller amounts coming from other places. Because of that, what we buy in Houston is usually frozen. It is safe to keep them frozen for several months. Most frozen products will have dates on them. We often buy our frozen scallops at Costco, but they are also available in most of our grocery stores.

Thawing is best done in the refrigerator overnight. If in a hurry, you can thaw the scallops more quickly by immersing the bag with the scallops in cold water. Just as fresh scallops should never smell fishy, the same goes for those that are frozen.

Many of the fresh ones appearing in seafood cases in grocery stores probably started as frozen and are thawed. Beyond judging their appearance, don't be afraid to ask to smell them before spending your hard-earned dollars.

In the video below, you can see how individuals have fun diving and completing their catch limits in more shallow waters. You will also see how scallops flap their shells and move through the water.

The video below shows four delicious-looking recipes using scallops. Enjoy!


© 2021 Peggy Woods

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