Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

With the sunshine and warmer weather, an Easter weekend tradition in our house is to celebrate our love (and the food!) of the beautiful South Carolina Low Country. I usually serve a version of the classic Low Country dish, Shrimp and Grits, but, this year tried this scallop and cauliflower grits adaptation. We absolutely loved it!

This recipe was adapted from Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef, via Sur la Table.com. I puréed the vegetables instead of juicing them for the sauce, used riced cauliflower, and doubled the garlic. Amazing.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

For the Cauliflower Grits:

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds riced cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

For the Scallops:

  • 2 medium whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 16 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the Cauliflower Grits: In the microwave, steam the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, or until very tender.
  2. Combine the steamed cauliflower with Parmesan, garlic, and enough cream cheese to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Prepare the Scallops: Combine the tomatoes, pepper and carrot in a Vitamix, food processor, or blender. Puree.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to pan in one layer. Sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove scallops to a platter.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil to skillet.
  8. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  10. Slowly whisk in puréed vegetables and bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. To serve: Serve scallops on top of cauliflower grits with sauce spooned on top. Garnish with scallions and extra black pepper, as desired.

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Classic Shrimp & Grits

This is a simple, classic, and perfect version of this fabulous southern dish. As a tradition in our house, we eat Shrimp and Grits over Easter weekend. It is absolutely delicious and can be served for any meal of the day. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Crook’s Corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, via Saveur. I used large shrimp and increased the amount of garlic and mushrooms. I also omitted the oil and used Sriracha instead of Tabasco. The shrimp tasted incredible after being sautéed in the bacon fat. Mmmmm. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
  • 3⁄4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1⁄4 cup parmesan
  • 2 T unsalted butter, divided
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges or slices
  • 1⁄2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  1. In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. (I incorporated 1 cup of chicken stock.)
  2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. (Whisk in more water for thinner grits.)
  3. Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt; cover and set aside.
  4. Heat a 12″ skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
  6. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
  7. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  8. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.
  10. Raise heat to high, add chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  12. Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and its sauce.
  13. Garnish each bowl with bacon, scallions, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

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Fried Chicken Thighs & Cheesy Grits

My husband’s dream Valentine’s Day dinner has to involve fried chicken. ❤ Weeks earlier, I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit and thought it would be perfect for our celebration… The problem was that I didn’t remember where I had seen my perfect recipe. :/ I had to search far and wide to finally track it down. Thankfully, that happened in time!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alison Roman. I used coarse yellow grits and added additional water and milk until the desired consistency was achieved. I also used a combination of baby kale, chard and spinach for the sautéed greens. My husband didn’t want hot pepper jelly (can you believe it?) so I didn’t add it to the greens while they were cooking. I added it to my plate at the end! (Tons of it!)

We ate this dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for any meal of the day- brunch too. 🙂 Absolutely Delicious!!

AND… I almost forgot… We had my homemade version of the best-selling Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie as our grand finale. What a meal. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

For the Chicken:

  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the Grits:

  • coarse salt
  • 1½ cups white or yellow grits (not instant)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • milk, as needed, to achieve the desired consistency

For Frying And Assembly:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby kale, chard and spinach or 2 bunches kale, or Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T distilled white vinegar
  • 1 T hot pepper jelly, plus more for serving (I used Trader Joe’s)

Marinade the Chicken:

  1. Combine buttermilk, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, and paprika in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken thighs, cover bowl or seal bag, and toss to coat. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. (I did 12 hours.)

Make the Grits:

  1. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil and gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, until grits are very tender and creamy, 25–30 minutes. Add cream cheese and Parmesan; whisk until melted and incorporated; season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Add more water or milk to adjust the consistency as needed.

For Frying And Assembly:

  1. Whisk flour, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika, and 2 tsp. salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Remove chicken thighs from brine, letting excess drip off.
  3. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture, occasionally dipping your fingers in brine as you pack on flour to help create moistened, shaggy bits (the makings of a super-crisp crust); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Fit a large cast-iron skillet with thermometer and heat oil until thermometer registers 350°.
  5. Working in batches and returning oil to 350° between batches, fry chicken thighs, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and coating is deep golden brown and crisp, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and let sit while you cook the greens.
  6. Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add greens in large handfuls, letting it cook down slightly before adding more and tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 Tbsp. pepper jelly and toss to coat, if desired.
  7. Divide grits evenly among bowls and top with greens, fried chicken, and more pepper jelly.

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Three Years Ago:

Scallops and Polenta

I have a soft spot for quick, easy, and pretty comfort food dishes! This dish is very reminiscent of one of our household favorites- shrimp and grits. Traditionally, we make that special dish from Charleston, South Carolina at Easter-time. Maybe this version should be our fall variation! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via The Gourmet Gourmand. We ate it with sautéed broccoli rabe and broccoli on the side. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup dried polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand; do NOT use instant polenta for this recipe)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (I also added a little bit of shredded Gruyère)
  • 8 sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 3 T grape seed oil
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, parsley, and/or thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare polenta:

  1. Bring water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.) While whisking, slowly add the polenta. Whisk frequently to avoid lumps. When mixture begins to spit, turn heat down to simmer (polenta should intermittently bubble and pop, but not rapidly).
  2. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until polenta is thickened and soft and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pot. Add the grated cheese and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and about 1/4 tsp of salt.

To prepare scallops and sauce:

  1. Pat your scallops dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a regular or cast-iron skillet, bring the grape seed oil to high heat. When pan is very hot, add scallops and sear for about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and sear on the opposite side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until scallops are cooked to your liking. Remove scallops and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until butter is lightly browned and smells nice and nutty. Turn off heat. Finish sauce with lemon juice (carefully! It will bubble and spit). Quickly pour into bowl or serving vessel to stop the cooking process. (It can be strained through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, if desired.)
  4. Serve scallops over bed of polenta, with a drizzle of the brown-butter sauce and minced herbs.

Note: Cooking the scallops in oil vs. butter allows you to sear them at a higher temperature for optimal sear marks and will give you more control over creating your browned butter sauce without burning the butter.

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If you like this you may also like:

Pesto Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes

This is a fast full-flavored dish. Healthy too! I always forget about how much I enjoy creamy polenta. 🙂 We ate it for dinner but it would also be wonderful for brunch.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. I increased the salt, doubled the tomatoes, and made homemade pesto. The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Tasty!

Yield: Serves 3 (in my house!) or 4

For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano

For the Dish:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used Campari)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pesto

To Make the Pesto:

  1. Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
  3. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. (I use a cast iron pot.) While whisking, gradually pour the polenta into the water.
  2. Reduce the heat to simmer or low and continue whisking for an additional minute.
  3. Continue cooking for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
  4. Remove the polenta from the heat when it is tender and creamy and has reached your desired thickness.
  5. Stir the salt and butter into the polenta until the butter is melted.
  6. Scoop polenta out onto plates. Top each with about 1/4 cup pesto. Divide tomatoes among plates. Serve. (We individually mixed together all of the ingredients before digging in!)

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Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits

We eat Southern Shrimp and Grits every year on Easter- it reminds us of our time in the beautiful sunshine while we lived in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s such a flavorful dish that isn’t popular here in New York. This year we branched out and ate this dish on Easter Eve… such a break from tradition. :/ Still wonderful! 🙂

The fresh corn in this version puts it over the top. SO good. The grated corn in the grits makes them thicker and the sautéed kernels sprinkled over the top provide wonderful texture. This recipe is from Bon Appetit, contributed by Dawn Perry. I added more fresh corn and garlic to the topping as well as sharp cheddar-gruyere melange cheese to the grits. Festive & Amazing!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 5 (small) ears of corn, husked
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grits (not instant)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used a sharp cheddar-gruyere blend), optional, to taste
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ to 3/4 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or ½  to 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
  • chopped fresh chives, for serving

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  1. Grate 3 ears of corn on the large holes of a box grater over a medium bowl, catching as much juice as possible; set aside. Cut kernels from remaining 2 ears of corn into another medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Bring broth, milk, and 1½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat so liquid is at a simmer and gradually whisk in grits. Simmer, whisking often, until grits are very tender, 20–25 minutes. Mix in butter, cheese (if using), and reserved grated corn; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Fifteen minutes after you have added grits to saucepan, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, oregano, and paprika, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  5. Serve shrimp and corn over grits topped with chives.

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Shrimp & Grits with Tomatoes

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We have a few Easter traditions in our home… the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt, writing a family member’s name on each Easter egg before dyeing it, following the string left by the Easter Bunny, and eating a classic Charleston dish, Shrimp and Grits, on Easter day. A newer tradition has been to attend the sunrise Easter mass at our beach- which starts at 5:30am!! We have only made it 3 or 4 times… the problem is that everyone is exhausted for the rest of the day. We will see how long that tradition lasts! 🙂 This year my kids also made bunny “peep-ka-bobs” or “shish-ka-peeps” (the name is still being worked out…) as an Easter treat. So cute & sweet! This new project is likely to become an annual tradition. 🙂

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This version of shrimp and grits has a wonderful tomato sauce served over parmesan cheese grits. I usually make cheese grits with sharp cheddar cheese and this was such a fabulous alternative. We preferred it! The cheese added just the perfect amount of salty deliciousness. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coarse Ground Yellow Grits. Although a simple dish, the preparation usually requires a group effort because everything is done at the last minute for the best result. I suppose another one of our Easter traditions is to cook this meal together! 🙂

Yield: Serves 8

  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups coarse ground yellow grits
  • 2 sweet onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shells removed, tails intact
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a bit more shaved for garnish, if desired
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, such as parsley, oregano, and thyme, coarsely chopped in a food processor
  1. For the grits: Heat 4 cups water, milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle in the grits. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth, thick, and falls easily from a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare tomatoes: Add 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in white wine, and cook until dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bay leaves, and stir in tomatoes and reserved juice. Season with cayenne pepper. Reduce the heat, and simmer until slightly thickened and the tomatoes have broken down, about 10 minutes.
  3. For the shrimp: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat to sizzling. Add shrimp, season with salt and black pepper, and saute to sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. When grits are thickened, stir in heavy cream and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Keep covered with a tight-fitting lid until ready to serve. When tomatoes are ready, remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the chopped herbs. Cover, and keep warm until shrimp are cooked.
  5. To serve, put a heaping spoonful of grits onto a soup plate. Top with the tomatoes, and arrange the shrimp around the plate. Garnish with freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired.

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