It’s that time of year again. On Florida’s west coast, scalloping is in full swing. In State waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County in the north to the Hernando-Pasco county line in the south anglers and civilians alike are out on the water harvesting all the delicious, shelled bounty the law allows. So, naturally, our taste buds are all ablaze with the prospect of scallops done many ways.
We decided to start with a riff on what has become a perennial favorite for many folk, Cheesy Grits and Shrimp. Make the cheese a smokey gouda and swap out the shrimp for scallops and off you go.
- 1lb Bay or dry pack Diver Scallops
- Coarse Ground Grits: 1 Cup
- Smoked Gouda Cheese: 4 Oz.
- Whole Milk: 2 1/2 Cups
- Half & Half: 1/2 Cup
- Water: 2 1/2 Cups
- White Pepper: 1Tsp
- Bacon: 3 Slices “julianned”
- Tomato: 1/4 Cup, chopped
- Butter: 5 Tbsp
The Secret Sauce
- Spring Onion
First things first. The scallops used in this particular prep are ocean (or diver) scallops. Bay scallops, the kind we harvest on Florida coastal waters, are smaller and sweeter. Searing the smaller scallops requires a little more attention to detail than their larger cousins but, is quite doable. Click here for a great “all about scallops” article over at The Reluctant Gourmet
Prep the scallops by placing them first between layers of paper towels to express any retained moisture. This will help them rind up during the pan-frying.
To start meal prep we begin with the grits. While some folk seemed vexed by them, grits are dead simple to prepare. For awesome, creamy grits do these 4 things: 1.Use proper grits. 2. Don’t skimp on moisture. 3. Do not spare the butter. 4. Keep you eye on the ball.
Proper Grits: If you do nothing more than stay away from grits that have the adjectives “instant” or “quick” attached to them you will likely be just fine. Some grits aficionados will argue milling methods, the plot of land the corn was grown on and all manner of superfluous minutiae. Explore these things as you wish but, regular grits from a reputable source will do fine.
Moisture: The surest way to mess up your grits is to go short on moisture. I use a 5 to 1 (sometimes greater) ratio as my starting point. The objective is to get it right from the start, not to be adding water in after the fact to achieve your desired consistency because, you won’t.
Butter: Ignore your diet & your doctor and, for crying out loud, use enough butter.
Focus: Cooking times, especially where grits are concerned, are a fluid thing. As you are approaching 80% of the suggested cooking time, be checking your grits. They will tell you when they are done and you will know it.
So, on to the prep. Bring the water & milk to a slow rolling boil. Stir in the grits and white pepper. When the pot has returned to the boil, reduce to simmer for the duration. Stir the grits frequently. I use a whisk or a fork.
Note: Some folk swear by soaking grits prior to cooking. Give it a try if you like. I find it makes no difference in the final product.
When you reach the point where the grits have the creamy consistency you desire, whisk in 4 tbsp. of the butter, the half & half and all of the cheese. Remove from the heat and set aside for plating.
As the grits are finishing, fry up the bacon in an iron skillet on medium heat. Cook to “close to crispy” and remove from skillet. If you have an excessive amount of bacon fat, go ahead and pour a little off.
Salt & pepper the scallops then place, as shown, in the still heated skillet. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for bay scallops) on the first side.
Carefully turn the scallops. Use tongs or, as needed, a flexible spatula, to break the rind from the skillet…. don’t force it…. this is a touch thing. Cook for an additional 1 1/2 minutes then remove and set aside for plating.
Prior to plating you’ll want to make the Secret Sauce. Kill the heat to the skillet and toss the remaining butter & lemon juice. Whisk together, deglazing the pan at the same time. Get all of the crunchy bits you are able to wrangle.
Plate the dish. Dole out a generous portion of your cheesy grits, drop 4 or 5 scallops on top, spoon on a little Secret Sauce and top with bacon, tomato & spring onion. I like to pair this with a fresh veggie and call it a meal.
Bon appetit and tight lines. Let us know what you think of this recipe.