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Monday, March 19, 2012

Seared Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish

When the Virtual Potluck crew got to choose from a selection of Coombs Family Farms maple products to cook with, I had no trouble going after the organic maple sugar. I've cooked with very nice maple syrups a number of times, but I had never played around with maple sugar before. So the next question was: what to cook?! Maybe one of these days I'll get adventurous (for me) and start baking with products like this. Not this time though. My mind rushed to one thing: maple bacon! And what to put the maple bacon on top of? How about some seared sea scallops? Yes, please.

Sear Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish

9 Ingredients in the Recipe... Simple and Delicious!
I gathered my ingredients to cook what in my mind was sure to be a delightfully sweet and spicy relish to put on top of the scallops. I started by chopping up about half a pound of hickory smoked bacon into small morsels and then throwing them in a skillet over medium high heat. I wanted the bacon to brown and for the fat to render, because bacon fat is what I would use to cook everything else. After that had been accomplished I removed the bacon from the skillet and placed it in a bowl to reserve it. I transferred about half the bacon fat to another skillet that I would use for my scallops and turned that heat up to medium high. In the original skillet that had the bacon and still half the bacon fat, I threw in half of a yellow onion, diced fairly finely, one jalapeno, seeded and diced finely, and about five cloves of garlic, minced.


Maple Bacon Relish at the Deglazing Stage
After the onion, jalapeno, and garlic had all cooked to the point of being soft, I added the bacon back in. Next, I deglazed the skillet with about half a cup of balsamic vinegar to free all of the buildup on the bottom of the skillet and get all the flavors to meld. I added a little freshly ground sea salt and black pepper and let the balsamic reduce a little more. When the contents of the skillet began to dry up and the flavors really looked like they had come together, I added another quarter cup or so of balsamic and about 2 tablespoons of Coombs Maple Sugar. After stirring it all in, I reduced the heat to a simmer and turned my attention to the scallops.

Scallops Searing in Bacon Fat






In the other skillet I already had the other half of the bacon fat pretty hot. I sprinkled each side of the U10 scallops with sea salt and black pepper, then bumped the heat on the burner up to high. When the bacon fat began to pop, I added the scallops the grease and rejoiced at the sound of the sizzle. Scallops searing in bacon fat: there isn't much sweeter of a sound! After a few minutes on one side I used a set of tongs to test their readiness to flip. If it is ready, it should easily let go of the pan. You might think that if the scallop sticks the pan that you might be burning it, but it actually means you should allow it to cook a little longer. When the scallop is flipped over you want to see some golden brown Maillard reaction effects (like caramelization). If your skillet isn't hot enough or you don't cook the scallop long enough, this sear may not develop. After searing like this on both sides, the scallop should be ready to go. You certainly don't want to overcook your scallop and dry it out, so don't be afraid to pull it off. A couple minutes on each side ought to do it!

A Second Plating of the Seared Sea Scallops with Maple Bacon Relish
To plate the scallops I simply arranged three of them on a dish in triangular fashion and then spooned a generous portion of maple bacon relish on top of each one. With some fresh parsley out of my Harb's Oasis herb garden, I'd say the dish was a tremendous success. The balsamic, bacon, and maple worked incredibly well together. I didn't get quite as much heat from the jalapeno as I wanted though. Still, it certainly worked as an interesting flavoring component. The scallops themselves were wonderful and paired deliciously with all the flavors in the relish!