Peconic Bay scallops are always a dear treat. This season, even more so. With the season just-underway, baymen are reporting the Peconic Bay scallop catches as “spotty”: a major bummer following a string of bumper years that spoiled for fans of this tiny, tender mollusk. Which means there’s all the more reason to find some–even a quarter pound–for your Thanksgiving table.
Like most local-minded East Ender residents, we like us some scallops. You can judge your local-food connectedness by how early in the scallop season you get your first taste: when we had dinner at the Springs home of Carissa Katz and Jeremy Samuelson a couple of weeks ago, the piece de resistance was two pounds of scallops caught down the road.
We swoon over their sweet, briney taste and plump texture–as well as the debate over cooking versus enjoying them raw. As a bedrock crop for generations of fishers, we are enamored of their rich history. Consider the infamous brown tide that wiped out the Peconic Bay scallop in the 1980s–delivering a fatal blow to many baymen’s bottomlines. Widow’s Hole oysterman Mike Osinski glimpses the mysteries of the universe in a bushel of scallops. We recall the pleasures of cooking them up with family, with inspiration from Calvin Trillin’s own recipe for scallops (the larger, ocean-dwelling variety). There’s also this Mark Bittman summertime scallop inspiration, which remains useful in the colder months.
Despite the small haul, this season has already been marred by scandal, including the apparently intentional dredging of a large scallop sanctuary in Napeague Harbor, which had been abundant with mature and juvenile scallops as well as eelgrass. “It seems to be that the only harbors in town with scallops are the ones that have sanctuaries in them,” the town’s shellfish hatchery director told the East Hampton Star. Nonetheless, we are thrilled to glimpse the resurgence of scallops from such sanctuaries, as well as citizen efforts to raise scallops and re-plant eelgrass. In a pre-Thanksgiving talk, Southold Project on Aquaculture Training founder Kim Tetrault noted SPAT members have been stocking their scallop cages with 30 or so bugs and returning later in the season to find 180 scallops gliding inside and near the cages, the offspring of the caged scallops, which are delivering a boost to the natural stock.
So get to your nearest seafood source. From the Seafood Shop in Wainscott to Braun’s in Mattituck, fishmongers so far have a solid supply. And for that we’re awfully thankful.