Pan Seared Scallops Over Polenta Drizzled with Herbed Brown Butter

I don’t mean to brag, but this was my dinner the other night! Completely gluten free and completely delicious.

I was actually really intimidated to prepare this meal for the first time. Preparing seafood is one of those things that can go wrong so easily. A minute too long and your salmon can dry out or your shrimp can turn to rubber. In particular, scallops are known for being super touchy, or delicate if you will. There is one reliable trick for cooking scallops well and that is….

You have to get yourself some quality scallops and a really hot and well oiled pan. The first time I ever cooked scallops I was a total noob and tried grilling them, I don’t recommend doing this. It was terrible! The flames pretty much melted all of the scallops right through the grating. Yes, I put them directly on the grating, so dumb!

The whole situation was such a hot mess that I lost my confidence for a little while. But eventually my ego recovered and I learned that pan searing is definitely the way to go.

Pro Tip: whenever you are pan searing anything, you can tell when it’s done by trying to move whatever you are cooking. If it comes up easily then it was ready to be flipped or removed, if it sticks, then it may need a little more time.

A Gluten Free Alternative that Isn’t Rice

In my early days of being gluten free I ate a lot of rice…too much rice. Nowadays, I’ve gotten pretty good at switching things up and expanding my gluten free food horizon.

While corn doesn’t score very high in the nutritional value contest, polenta is a gluten free and highly versatile corn based food that can be dressed up or dressed down. For those of you that don’t know, Polenta is an Italian porridge or basically glorified cornmeal mush.

Polenta’s flavor is neutral enough that it can be prepared it several ways. I love cooking it up as a creamy base for seafood, short ribs or a mushroom ragu. It can also be baked and cut into crunchy delicious “fries.” I’m def going to be posting a recipe for that on the blog! You can also throw in so many different gluten free mix-ins like cheese (gruyere, cheddar, parmesan), truffle oil, even chorizo.

I knew right away that I wanted to prepare the scallops over polenta but I was looking for a way to dress it up. That’s where the herbed brown butter comes it.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE brown butter so when I saw this recipe on the Gourmetgourmand.com I was sold!

For this recipe I highly recommend making polenta from scratch rather than buying the pre-made tube at the store. The tube is convenient but it’s very congealed and will not be turned into the kind of creamy goodness you need for this recipe.

A Healthy Gluten Free Side Dish

My husband and I try really heard to eat locally grown organic produce so we usually stick to seasonal veggies. For this recipe I opted for oven roasted asaparagus. They tasted delicious roasted on the grill! Honestly, this meal would probably go well with any roasted veggie but since it’s Spring I opted for the seasonally appropriate asparagus.  Other veggies to try roasted include brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, turnips and butternut squash.

Ok let’s get down do it!

Ingredients (Serves 2)

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons butter divided

12 medium sized scallops (I prefer the light colored ones)

Hand full of fresh cut herbs or a teaspoon or 2 of a mix of dried herbs: thyme/oregano/sage (I pretty much used whatever was in my spice rack)

1/2 lemon juiced

1 cup dried polenta

5 cups water

asparagus

salt & pepper

Polenta (cook time 45 minutes):Combine dried polenta and water. Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil. Whisk frequently to avoid lumps. When mixture begins to spit, turn heat down to medium-low (polenta should intermittently bubble and pop, but not rapidly). Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 45 minutes, until polenta is thickened and soft and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pot. Melt in 3 tablespoons of butter and season to taste with about 1-1 ½ teaspoons of salt.

Roasted Asparagus (cook time 10-15 minutes):  Wash asparagus and bend the stems until they break off, keeping the end with the tips (this is obvious but I said it anyway). Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in oven preheated to 400 degrees on a foil lined baking sheet until they are nice and crispy looking (they will shrivel a bit). You can also grill at 350-400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Scallops and Herbed Brown Butter (cook time mere minutes):This first step is annoying but super important to make sure you get that beautiful seared crust on your scallops… Pat your scallops dry with a  paper towel and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat a regular or cast-iron skillet ( I have all-clad) to high heat and add the olive oil. Get your pan nice and hot, add scallops and sear for about 2-3 minutes. Flip the scallops and sear on the opposite side for an additional 2-3 minutes. They over cook very easily to really keep an eye on them. Remove scallops and set aside.

In the same pan, reduce heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to the pan. It only takes a few minutes before you will see the butter start to bubble and brown. It will release a light nutty fragrance when it is done. Through the herbs in, give them a few swishes around and then turn off the heat.  Add in the lemon juice and remove from the stove top.

Plate the scallops nestled in a sea of creamy polenta and top with the herbed brown-butter sauce.

Enjoy!

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