My husband recently spent two days smoking every food item he could get his hands on...flank steak, pulled pork, roma tomatoes, white cheddar, chicken breast and the partial bag of scallops that I had in the freezer. Smoked scallops are so tasty; the smokiness brings out the sweetness, and the few times that he has made them we have both really enjoyed them.
Being winter, I made chowder with them, not salad as I have done in the past. I did not want to diminish the delicate smoky flavour so I made the soup first, and then pan seared the scallops and added them directly to each bowl. The crispy caramelized bits from the pan were scraped out and used as a garnish...what a great idea on my husband's part! Nothing goes to waste in our house...
To make the chowder I took advantage of a few things, namely 2 slices of ham, a small piece of zucchini, a couple of carrots and 2 small red potatoes. Trying to stay away from whipping cream, I used milk and chicken stock.
Dice and cook in a bit of olive oil until crispy:
2 slices of ham
Add the diced vegetables and cook until they begin to soften:
1/2 medium onion
2 medium carrots
1 stalk celery
2" piece of zucchini
salt and pepper
When the vegetables are starting to soften, add:
1 tablespoon butter
When the butter has melted, stir in, and cook for 2 minutes:
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
Bring to a boil, stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.
1 1/2 cups milk
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
The last vegetable to add is the potatoes:
2 small red skinned potatoes, diced
Make sure that all of the vegetables are covered; add more chicken stock or milk if needed.
Simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
Taste and adjust seasoning. I added a pinch of cayenne pepper at this point, as well as more salt. This is also the time to adjust the consistency; I added a bit more milk. The soup is now ready to serve, so the scallops can be cooked.
Make sure that your scallops have had the 'foot' or small muscle on the side removed, as it is chewy. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and heat a non stick pan.
When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil., and then the scallops.
Cook them so that they are golden and seared on each side, which takes hardly any time. My scallops were smaller so they took about a minute to cook. The key is a very hot pan, which allows the caramelization to occur.
Immediately divide the cooked scallops between the soup bowls.
Portion the chowder into the bowls, and garnish with the caramelized bits from the bottom of the scallop pan.
Serve with warm, crusty bread so that every last drop can be soaked up and enjoyed.
- Smoked scallops are not essential for the chowder. You can use any scallops, or other shellfish: prawns, crab, lobster, clams.
- To add to the smoky flavour consider using bacon or pancetta instead of ham. This can also be omitted.
- The scallops can be added directly to the chowder a minute or two before serving, which is enough time to cook them through. I wanted the caramelized effect, as well as the smokiness to come through instead of being absorbed into the chowder.
- Be careful not to overcook the scallops; they will continue to cook as they sit in the bowl of hot soup. Sear in a HOT pan to achieve the crispy, caramelization without overcooking the middle.
- Add other vegetables such as corn, peas, sweet peppers, leeks.
- The chowder base can be made a day or two ahead; cook and add the scallops right before serving.