Seared Scallops with Creamy Bacon Grits
Creamy corn grits blended with bits of smoky bacon, sautéed onion and fresh summer corn are the perfect complement to the mild, sweet flavor of seared scallops. A salad or simple green vegetable is all you need to complete this easy, company-worthy meal.
- 1-1/2 lbs dry sea scallops (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
For the grits:
- 1/4 lb thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1-1/2 cups white (or yellow) corn grits
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1-1/2 cups corn kernels (about 3 ears fresh corn)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, drain all but 2 teaspoons of fat from the pan and reserve the remainder for later use.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion. Sauté until soft and just starting to turn golden. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the grits and immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring continually, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the butter, reserved bacon, sautéed onion and corn. Combine well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside to keep warm.
- Note: Grits will stiffen up a bit as they sit, so you may want to stir in a little warm milk or water just before serving to restore the creamy texture.
- Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and arrange them in a single layer on a large plate. Combine the salt, sweet paprika, black pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the scallops, turn and repeat on the second side.
- Wipe out the pan you cooked the bacon in and heat the butter along with about 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add the scallops in a single layer and sear until they develop a pale golden crust on the outside, a maximum of 1-1/2 minutes per side (see notes).
- Scallops need about 3/4-inch of space between them in order to sear properly, so if the pan seems overcrowded, cook them in 2 batches.
- Transfer the cooked scallops to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Reserve the pan juices for serving.
- To serve, plate individual portions of grits, top with scallops and spoon some of the pan juices over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve immediately.
About the Scallops:
For best results, choose "dry" sea scallops - 16 to 20 per pound size. Depending on their size, plan on 5 to 6 scallops for each serving.
The word "dry," when referring to scallops, means that they have not been soaked in the brine-like solution often used to help prevent them from losing their natural moisture. If not clearly marked, ask your fishmonger if the scallops you're buying are "wet" or "dry." Use only the "dry" variety in this recipe as you will not be able to sear the "wet" type properly.
Be sure that you work quickly with the scallops and don't overcook them. When cooked in a moderately hot pan, a minute-and-a-half per side should do it. You are looking for a little bit of a crust around the edges and a creamy colored, slightly translucent center.