If you love scallops, you’re in luck. Bo Byrne, executive chef at Tiqa, a Mediterranean Restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland, Maine, has some scallop cooking tips for us. And if you feel like serving an extra special scallop dish, he also shared a scrumptious recipe for Scallops Pan-seared with Chilled Corn Cream, Smoked Potatoes, and North Country Bacon.
Before you start searing, Catching Health’s associate editor Jen Boggs, asked Chef Bo a few questions.
What are the hallmarks of Mediterranean cooking?
The hallmark characteristics of the cuisine are that it’s fast, easy, and healthy. Simple foods that are often as frugal as possible incorporating fruits, vegetables and nuts or grains with very little dairy, other than greek yogurt. And olive oil — lots of olive oil — often used to dress the final product and rarely used to cook or sauté.
Why do you enjoy this region’s style of cooking?
I enjoy this region’s style of communal dining. Large groups that are passing dishes around the table as everyone is engaging around the food. Thanksgiving is probably the memory that comes to mind but this is done every day at any meal. Eating as a whole or as a family is how I was raised and I am very fortunate, I know that isn’t what is happening in every household. I am lucky that mine did.
What one tip can you offer home cooks?
Don’t out cook yourself!! Keep it simple at first and have fun. Something I have made the connection to over the years is that we (as chefs) are not Olympic divers. No one has ever said, “I know how hard this is to make and although it tastes horrible, I kind of like it because I know how hard it was and I applaud the effort.” We will only be judged on how it tastes in the end. Presentation clearly is a factor as well but only after the food tastes good.
Okay, one more tip: How can someone cook the perfect scallop? Any tricks of the trade?
Dry the scallops in a towel or pat them dry first. Do not season the scallops until you are going to cook them. Salting them too early will draw moisture to the top of the scallop making it difficult to sear. Get the pan very hot and then turn down the flame to a medium heat.This will keep the scallops from burning on impact. Do not use a lot of oil when trying to sear, coat the bottom of the pan and pour off the excess. Do not fry the scallop in oil.
Once scallops are in the pan, do not touch them or check to see if they are done. Instead, look at the side of the scallop for a caramelized brown color. When they are ready to flip they will release themselves from the pan and you can flip them effortlessly. I prefer my scallops seared on one side – only “lightly handled”. They can be eaten completely raw so I try not to overcook them.
Is there anything you’d like to add about this recipe specifically, food in general, or anything else?
This dish has hot and cold components. The different temperatures will compliment each other in the final bite. Much like crunchy items on a smooth dish help elevate the bite, the same happens when hot and cold come together. Think about a hot fudge sundae and how mediocre refrigerated chocolate sauce would be in its place. Some people will prefer the chilled corn cream to be hot in the dish, but they are wrong! Do it anyway, though, if you like them.
Scallops (Spain) pan-seared with chilled corn cream, smoked potatoes, and north country bacon
In order to make this dish correctly, you need to make a few things before making the scallops. They will cook in about 2-3 minutes. The rest of the dish will require about 45 minutes of prep and sauce reduction time. The potatoes will need to be steamed first before taking on the smoke of the wood chips. They will take about an hour total between the steam and the smoke. BUT once you have all of that done this dish comes together in a matter of moments.
(These recipes have been scaled down to be “home” sized.)
- 1/4 lb Bacon
- 1T Whole grain dijon
- 1/2 c Maple syrup
- 1/3 c sherry vinegar
Sweat* bacon and render until crispy. Add vinegar, maple syrup and mustard. Simmer on low heat for 20 min.
* When you sweat food it generally means you cook it over low heat in a small amount of fat, usually in a covered pan.
Chilled Corn Cream
- 1 pint half and half
- 1 1/4 lb corn kernels
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/8 lb butter
Sweat onions in butter and be careful to not brown or color the onions-use a low flame to achieve. Add corn, mix and saute. Add half and half, boil and then reduce to a simmer. 30 minutes should do it. Puree in blender and strain out the chunks through a chinois or cheesecloth. Chill before serving.
Pickled Corn Relish
- 3/4 lb corn
- 1/4 c vinegar
- 1/4 c sugar
- 2 T salt
- 1/4 onion
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/4 c water
Dice onion and pepper and place in pot with corn and all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Chill.
The potatoes are steamed for about 25-30 minutes and then smoked on wood chips for another 25-30 minutes.
Once you have all of that done, it’s time to sear the scallops. (Remember those tips from above!) They will be placed on top of the chilled corn cream and rested on the smoked potatoes that have been dressed in the smoky bacon vinaigrette.