Scallops and Cheddar Grits with Chorizo

The first time I had the Southern classic shrimp and grits was on set during the filming of Top Chef in Miami, brilliantly prepared by Dallas-based chef Tre Wilcox in a taco truck. I've been hooked ever since. Here, the same idea, but with sea scallops--also a sweet shellfish, and one that needs no peeling or deveining. Scallops are particularly friendly with salty, spicy pork, whether it's fancy Italian ham, good old bacon, or, in this case, the spicy Spanish sausage that rounds out this dish.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 40 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 servings 
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Ingredients

Kosher salt

3/4 cup grits 

6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups) 

16 sea scallops, trimmed of tough muscle flap (if present) 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

1 link (about 4 ounces) cooked, Spanish-style chorizo, casing removed, cut into matchsticks or just crumbled 

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts) 

Freshly ground black pepper 

1 garlic clove, finely chopped 

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil, and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Slowly stir the grits into the water, pouring the grits in a fine stream. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the Cheddar, cover, and keep warm in the oven.
  2. Ten minutes into cooking the grits, pat dry the scallops, season them with salt and pepper on both sides, and heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, then the chorizo, and cook until the sausage renders some fat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the scallops, shake the pan to move them around a little, and sear for 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until browned, 2 minutes. Remove the scallops and chorizo to a plate lined with a paper towel. 
  3. Reduce the heat under the pan to medium, and add the scallions, garlic, and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, and remove from the heat. 
  4. On each of 4 plates, make a bed of grits, then place the scallops on top, and drizzle pan sauce and chorizo on and around the scallops and grits. Serve quickly. 

Cook’s Note

Always insist upon "dry" scallops. "Wet" scallops have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate, which gives them a longer shelf life by helping them retain excess moisture--and which, accordingly, makes them hard to brown and obscures their sweet flavor. Also, before cooking, check scallops for any residual bits of connective muscle, which looks like a little flap on the side of the cylindrical critter; it is almost always left attached to the yummy part, and it is inedibly tough. Added value: Here's a worthwhile discovery that you can apply pretty much throughout the grocery store: most products labeled "quick" or "instant" are barely any faster than the real thing; invariably have been packed with weird, bad-tasting, science-y ingredients; and always cost more money. This kind of stuff is invented because there aren't many ways for food companies to increase their profit on the sale of, say, an apple. They have to add value to that apple. So they slice half an apple, sprinkle it with a preservative, and seal it in a single-serving bag: Voila! A ready-packed snack to sell for easily twice the price of a humble piece of fruit, and with a shelf life of months and the opportunity to emblazon a colorful brand logo on a piece of plastic packaging. All of which is to say, creepy. For me, real food, please.

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