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8 & $20: Seared Scallops With Creamy Cheddar-Jalapeño Corn

This satisfying summer dish is even better with an unoaked Chardonnay
Combining lightly crunchy roasted corn kernels with a béchamel sauce achieves a luscious texture.
Photo by: Greg Hudson
Combining lightly crunchy roasted corn kernels with a béchamel sauce achieves a luscious texture.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Posted: July 28, 2015

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

As soon as corn makes its first appearance of the summer in our local markets, it also begins starring on our dinner table. In this particular dish, corn takes an indulgent turn, made richer with cheese, spiced up with jalapeño, then crowned with the toasty flavors and silky texture of seared scallops. While these shellfish are one of my favorite toppings, the corn would make a wonderful side dish for any number of summer recipes.

I like the sweet, lightly crunchy texture of fresh corn and wanted to preserve that in this recipe. Rather than pureeing part of the corn, as is often done in creamed corn recipes, I combined roasted corn kernels with a béchamel sauce to achieve that luscious texture.

Roasting the corn takes a good bit of time; however, this initial step requires little work and you can do the other, minimal prep while waiting. My husband will often do me the favor of shaving the corn as I get started with the sauce. But if you’re strapped for time (or if fresh corn is out of season), frozen corn also works quite well.

When adding the jalapeño, adjust the level of heat to your taste by varying the amount of seeds you include—I chose to use about half, so that the spiciness would not overwhelm the wine.

For a pairing, I wanted a wine that would complement the dish’s creaminess but feel refreshing in the summer heat. The first wine we sampled was a South African Chenin Blanc, which had a nice round texture, but the flavors became shrill with the food.

Next up was a dry rosado from Rioja, with bright red fruit notes and hints of herbs and watermelon rind. This rosé worked quite well, making a near-seamless transition with the food.

The final wine was a Chardonnay from Chile. Though unoaked, it still had a pleasant fullness on the palate, making an easy textural match, along with plump orchard fruit flavors. The food brought out more tart citrus notes in the wine, which acted like a squeeze of lemon on the seafood. This was our favorite match of the evening.

Seared Scallops With Creamy Cheddar-Jalapeño Corn

Pair with an unoaked Chardonnay, such as Apaltagua Chardonnay San Antonio Valley Unoaked Reserva 2014 (88 points, $13).

For an alternative, try a rosé, such as El Coto de Rioja Rioja Rosado 2014 (85 points, $12).

Total time: 90 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 75 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Approximate food cost: $50

  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, or 4 to 5 per serving, rinsed and thoroughly dried
  • 4 ears of corn, in husks
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 jalapeño, diced, seeds removed to suit desired heat level
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cooking oil (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Place the ears of corn directly in the oven in their husks. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the kernels are tender. Remove from oven.

3. Once corn is cool enough to handle, peel back the husks, then use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels. Set aside.

4. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan. As soon as the butter is melted, whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook over medium heat for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture begins to smell toasty.

5. Add 1 cup of the milk and whisk to incorporate well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the shredded cheddar and two-thirds of the jalapeño (reserving the rest), and stir to incorporate and help melt the cheddar. Stirring often, allow the sauce to cook until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

6. Add the corn kernels to the sauce and stir to combine. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste. If desired, add the remaining 1/4 cup of milk to the mixture for a looser texture. Set aside and keep warm.

7. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add a tablespoon of butter and a bit of cooking oil (optional). Season the scallops with salt. Once the butter is melted and starting to bubble, add the scallops, making sure to not overcrowd the pan, working in batches if necessary. Sear the scallops about 3 minutes per side, basting with butter often, until they are a deep golden brown. Remove the scallops from the pan and season with additional salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste.

8. Place a bed of the creamy corn mixture on each plate. Top with 4 or 5 scallops and garnish with the remaining diced jalapeño. Serves 4

Jeffrey Matchen
New York, NY —  August 2, 2015 9:54pm ET
We tried the scallop and jalapeño corn recipe tonight. Really good and quite easy (we had never cooked scallops before). A really nice summer dish that paired well with a Napa Chardonnay. Thanks!

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