Food You Can Eat: Legal Seafoods Baked Scallops

Do you pronoounce these Sc-Al-ops or Sc-AWL-ups? The debate rages to this day.

Now is the time to dig out your ceramic clamshell plates. All that green stuff in the photo is parsley, which isn't used in this recipe.

If you’ve ever been to Boston you might have run into a Legal Seafoods. They are (to me) an upscaled version of Red Lobster. I suspect they started out as a stand-alone restaurant and then became a chain: they are to be found all over Logan Airport and in various suburban malls. My sainted mother-in-law was a huge fan and I will never pass up seafood in all its myriad forms. When we would go up there to visit her we’d go out to lunch or dinner, her choice, her dutiful son would pick up the tab, and she often picked Legal Seafoods, much to my delight and to her son’s chagrin. It will always have a special place in my cold, dark heart.

I found this copy cat recipe somewhere a while ago and used to make it quite frequently. Scallops are very filling, so while they’re expensive you don’t need a lot of them. I can get them fresh but I’m sure frozen is fine, just make sure they’re thawed: they won’t be cooked well enough if they go straight from the freezer to your baking pan.

What I like about this recipe is I think it is very Boston, because of the Ritz crackers and the buttermilk, but I don’t know why. I suppose it’s because I almost never use buttermilk or Ritz for crackers for anything except this.

Serves 4

You will need:

1 lb sea scallops

Salt and pepper to taste*

1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves minced

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced**

1/4 cup buttermilk

10 crushed Ritz Crackers*

2 tbsp (1/8 cup) melted butter

Juice of a small lemon

  • * If you can’t find Ritz crackers, and they’re hard to find for me, substitute 10 crushed cracked pepper crackers and forgo the salt and pepper. Or, keep the salt and pepper and use a handful of breadcrumbs. [I cannot for the life of me to get this to format correctly for me but you get the idea]

** Garlic is not in the original recipe but it’s a little bland without it.


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, season the scallops with salt and pepper. Add thyme, garlic, and buttermilk and toss to coat the scallops.

Evenly place the scallops in an oven-proof casserole and cover with hand-crushed Ritz crackers. Top with melted butter and bake for 20 minutes.

Squeeze juice of lemon over the scallops and serve immediately.


If I’m remembering this right, “Legal’s,” as the good citizens of Boston call it, serves this in individual casserole dishes, like cocottes. I serve it over rice. If you want, make the rice first, season and coat the scallops, add the cooked rice, and then add to the baking dish making, what else, a scallop casserole. 



  1. I love scallops, but even though I get them fresh from the fish market, delivered from Baltimore same-day, after cooking the entire house smells strongly of fish for 24 hours without aromatic intervention. (Old house, little indoor insulation, odors rise.)

Leave a Reply