Mouthwatering gourmet done right at home. Plump, fresh scallops are seasoned and seared to create a slightly crisp exterior and melt-in-your-mouth interior, served over a bed of creamy cheddar polenta with smoky bacon, topped with a flavorful pan-sauce, and paired with a medley of tender spinach, sweet baby peas and bell pepper. Rosemary ciabatta rolls on the side 🙂
Who knew that something this simple and quick could be so elegant, delectable, and nutritious?
A few key “secrets”:
- Quality matters. Choose fresh (not previously frozen) wild sea scallops from a place you trust. (I find outstanding ones at Earth Fare.) If you have to choose one thing to splurge on, this is it. These plump juicy babies are the difference between “tastes great” and “OMG this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
- Pan residue is your best friend. The browning on your skillet as food cooks contains ultra-concentrated flavors that come out magically with a little liquid. One night, while cleaning up after dinner, my dear uncle picked up a brittle piece of concentrated scallop residue from the dirty pan, put it in his mouth, smiled, and said he wanted a whole pan of that! While I wouldn’t serve the charred bits like crackers, if done at the right time, they can be transformed into a thick, delectable glaze that can make your simple home-cooked meal worthy of a 5-star restaurant.
- In this recipe, I use Pacific Foods organic vegetable broth. I recommend this over chicken broth because I have found it to be thicker and more flavorful, helping to create a richer pan-sauce without the need for added thickeners. If using a more watery broth or even wine (first make sure it’s wine you love!), you may need 1/2 tsp cornstarch or flour to help thicken the glaze.
- For the polenta (or grits), I use Bob’s Red Mill white corn grits. They are whole grain, versatile, and when cooked to fluffy perfection and folded with cheese, I think my heart melts a little.
Start with the bacon (I use turkey bacon), and start the polenta while it’s cooking. Then deglaze with broth and cook the veggies. (Here it’s onion, red and yellow bell pepper, fresh spinach, and frozen/thawed baby sweet peas; but you can sub in what you have on-hand.)
Add a little oil if needed, and the seasoned scallops go next. (For the seasoning, I used a Hawaiian blend; you can sub a pinch of sea salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and dried Italian herbs.) Fold cheese into polenta, divide into shallow bowls or plates, and top with the scallops. Finally, add more broth to the pan and simmer until a thick sauce forms; spoon over scallops.
- 10 oz fresh sea scallops
- scant 1/2 cup (70g) white corn grits
- 1 cup water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup 1% milk
- 1 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 slices turkey bacon
- ~1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup sliced yellow onion (opt.)
- 1/3 cup sliced bell pepper
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 1.5 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen baby sweet peas, thawed
- 1/2 tsp oil
- sprinkle Hawaiian seasoning*
- sprinkle chopped fresh chives
- Set scallops on a paper towel to dry while prepping other ingredients.
- Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in grits (polenta) and reduce heat. Slowly add milk, stirring to avoid lumps. Simmer on medium-low or low about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover at least 5 minutes longer. When ready to serve, gently fold in cheddar and divide between shallow bowls or plates.
- Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat on each side until crisp. Set aside.
- Add ~2 Tbsp broth, onion, and bell pepper to the hot skillet, stirring and scarping up browned bits. Add more broth as necessary. When the bell pepper begins to slightly soften, add garlic and cook ~1 minute, until fragrant. Add peas and spinach, and gently stir over medium-low heat until spinach is wilted. Season with black pepper to taste. Set vegetables aside.
- Add oil to the same skillet (~1/2 tsp if nonstick, 2 tsp otherwise), swirl to coat, and heat over medium-high. Season scallops with Hawaiian seasoning, or as desired.* Add scallops to the pan, making sure not to overcrowd it. Cook a couple minutes on each side, or until browned and just opaque in the center. Place in bowls on top of polenta and bacon.
- Quickly after removing scallops, reduce heat and add ~1/3 cup vegetable broth to the pan, scraping up residue. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.** Spoon sauce over scallops and polenta. Serve with vegetables. Garnish with chopped fresh chives.
- *You can sub a pinch sea salt and sprinkle black pepper, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning.
- **If using a watery broth, sprinkle in ~1/2 tsp cornstarch or flour, stirring constantly, to help thicken the sauce.