august 21, 2015
When fresh corn season winds down, I am scrambling to think of ways to enjoy these precious kernels before they disappear. Simple, of course, is always best, as in boiled, salted and buttered.
Buttermilk corn cakes are on The Good Eats Company summer menus, as is eggplant with fresh corn and tomato, succotash, and buttermilk spoonbread with fresh corn. Smoky tomato and fresh corn soup is a personal favorite, redolent of sweet Spanish smoked paprika. Corn gets tossed into my Lucky 13 Vegetable Soup and into muffins with local Smithfield ham. September menus feature virtually no corn in a starring role, since the local goods are sadly dwindling. Sighhhh…
I’ve always loved a good corn salad (see grilled corn and sugar snap pea salad) because this versatile starch is the perfect foil for flavors both ethnic and plain Jane. North African spices, Asian condiments and Central American flavors all complement fresh corn. Add other bits of seasonal produce and a nice protein, and you’ve got yourself the quintessential summer easy meal.
The pairing of fresh corn with seafood is a match made in culinary heaven. Today’s recipe is a lightly cooked corn base topped with seared scallops and pickled red onion. Any and all components may be made ahead for easy assembly. Any fish or shellfish will make a fine substitute, but if you can find them, dry packed scallops (without preservatives) are your best bet.
Pickling red onions sounds like a very involved process, but a quick toss with kosher salt, sugar and red wine vinegar yields a supple, yet still crisp, and very pretty condiment in about an hour. I love the red wine vinegar made from local red wine at Virginia Vinegar Works. Although a good white wine or cider vinegar works as well, the red wine vinegar helps preserve the lovely magenta hue. Just be sure to avoid white vinegar which is a chemical product; balsamic vinegar is too sweet and overpowering.
A heavy skillet is a must for this recipe, and a nicely seasoned large cast iron skillet is even better. If you don’t mind a little brownish tint to your salad, using the scallop skillet without wiping the interior, and using it for the corn, will allow loosening of the scallop brown (and supremely flavorful) bits to enter the picture for best flavor.
Make all ahead of time if you like (corn up to 2 days ahead, red onion up to one week ahead, and scallops the day before), but allow the scallops to rest at room temperature about 30 minutes so they will be tender.
Scallop and Corn Salad with Pickled Red Onion
makes four servings
one medium large red onion, thinly sliced (about 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
one pound dry pack scallops, side muscle removed and patted dry
four ears corn, kernels removed with sharp serrated knife
extra virgin olive oil
finely ground white pepper
one jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- In shallow stainless steel or glass mixing bowl toss red onion with sugar, red wine vinegar and one teaspoon kosher salt.
- Let onion stand at room temperature one hour, tossing every 10 minutes, until supple but still crisp.
- Season scallops lightly with kosher salt and white pepper.
- In large heavy skillet (cast iron preferred), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat until it begins to smoke slightly, then add scallops, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, and sear about two minutes per side, setting aside scallops as they are done.
- In same pan (wipe interior clean, or, if you want the browned caramelized scallop juices to flavor the corn, skip the cleaning), add 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and when it begins to shimmer, add corn kernels and cook over medium heat, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
- After at least one hour of standing, drain the red onion, saving the juices in a medium mixing bowl.
- To the red onion juices, whisk in the Dijon mustard, add the corn and sliced jalapeño and divide among four large plates.
- Top with pickled red onion strands, then scallops.
- Serve immediately; if any components have been chilled, allow sitting at room temperature about 30-60 minutes before serving.