Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pan seared Sea Scallops with Ginger creamed Corn, Bacon and Cilantro

For starters, I love scallops.  Jessica likes scallops, but for her, for the price, it's rarely what she would choose.  Every once in a while she'll grab a nice Ribeye, a seasonal veggie and pick up a scallop and just throw it on the plate for me, so I can get my fix.  Mainly, I like scallops cooked best in bacon fat with a good hard sear on the outside, translucent in the middle with just a touch of acidity at the end of the cook. 

Jessica plays poker 8-12 nights a month and honestly I wish she played more because shes a terrific player, a proven winner and even though it exaggerates her neuroses, she also enjoys it immensely.   When she's gone, I'll usually pick up a piece of fish, sometimes meat and try to create a little dish for our amazing little 22 month old daughter Kaia and I.  Kaia is a big fan of seafood.

If the recipe works, I try to think of ways to improve it, without overcomplicating or muddling it (which is always a challenge) and then I'll make it for Jess, who is a far superior cook with more discerning taste buds.
Here's a dish I came up with, using Alton Brown's creamed corn recipe for a baseline.  Cook time from prep to finish is about 30-45 minutes depending on portions.

1 to 1.5 ears of corn per person
Yellow Onion
Yellow Cornmeal
Sea Scallops (larger and fresher the better, about 3-4 per person)

1. Render the bacon fat on very low heat, until crispy.

2. Peel corn husks, removing all silks then using a sharp knife take the corn kernels off stem.  Dice yellow onion (about 1/4 medium onion per person), mince ginger into paste like consistency.

3. While bacon cooks, sweat diced yellow onion in butter. Medium heat, be careful not to burn the butter.  Add pinch of ginger and the corn.  Season and taste.  While corn cooks, use potato masher to mash corn to a mixture of textures.  Some of the corn should be crunchy and whole still and other parts should be pulpy.

4. Once bacon is crispy remove from pan.  Strain bacon fat removing all solids and put back on high heat.

5. Add cream, a pinch of sugar and about a tablespoon of cornmeal (1/2 tablespoon per ear of corn in recipe) to the pan with corn and onions.  Stir while cream reduces.  Season and taste.

6.  Season scallops with salt and pepper.  Once pan is smoking hot, put scallops in bacon fat.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes until scallop forms a golden brown crust.  Turn over, reduce heat to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.  Then hit them with a squeeze of lime juice and remove from pan. Scallops should be seared on the outside but rare in the middle.

7.  While scallops cook, attend to corn, stirring until cream reduces.  Mix should have a texture similar to a risotto.  Remove from heat. 

8.  Chop bacon and cilantro. 

Don't waste the bacon fat, hit each scallop with a dash more once you put them on the plate.  Sprinkle bacon and cilantro over top. 

The dish is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  The pic above is from the first time I cooked it.  On the second take I seared the scallops better but the pics didn't turn out right.  The flavors should be subtle and you should be able to taste each ingredient.  Jessica tried this one for the first time today and she was really pleased.   She gave it a 7.5 out of 10 as is (which is a very high score from her:).  We talked about adding a little red chile oil over the top for spice.  We were wondering if this extra dimension would help the dish by giving it more depth or if it would be a distraction from the flavors we're concentrating on.  I think it would certainly improve the look of it, but not sure about the flavor.  What do you think? 


  1. sounds and looks yummy, I have scallops and corn will try in the next couple of days

  2. Oh yeah, where's the celery salad recipe? I have lots of celery still.