Chinese Five Spice Scallops with Sweet Corn Purée

Today I’m making Chinese five spice dusted scallops with an earthy, sweet corn puree, crispy pancetta, and fresh chives. I know scallops can be intimidating to make but this recipe is restaurant quality without the million steps!

Summer is also the perfect time to make a recipe like this because you can often get fresh corn, which makes all the difference in this recipe. In New England, corn usually is harvested in July and August so I’m currently making everything and anything corn related!

Fresh corn is so sweet and tender, it’s ridiculously delicious. Scallops are buttery and slightly sweet which is perfect with the corn and is offset by the saltiness of the pancetta and the aromatics of Chinese five spice (typically cloves, fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorn). Stomach growling…

Talk about the perfect summer meal!

Makes: for two people

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes 

Total time: 35 minutes

The Ingredients

6 similar-sized diver scallops (or sea scallops if you can’t find diver scallops!)

4 large ears fresh corn (about 2 cups), corn cut off the cobs

6 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons coconut cream

¼ teaspoon curry powder

Pinch of Chinese five spice (pretty common in most grocery stores!)

2 slices of pancetta (or 2 ounces of diced pancetta)

Chives to garnish

Pinch of salt

The Steps

For crispy pancetta: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pancetta slices on a foiled-lined baking sheet for 5-6 minutes until pancetta is golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside. If you have diced pancetta, sauté in a dry pan until crispy, about 7-8 minutes over medium heat.

For sweet corn puree: place corn in a small pot with about an inch or two of water in it. Cover pot, and heat over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, until water is simmering and corn is just tender. Drain water and scoop corn into a bowl (if using an immersion blender – preferred!) or the bowl of a blender (if using a regular blender). Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the corn. Bury the butter in the warm corn so the butter melts. Add coconut cream, curry, and a pinch of salt. If you don’t like curry, don’t add it! Use an immersion blender or regular blender to gently blend the mixture in pulses, until mixture is well combined and just pureed. I like to leave the mixture slightly coarse, so that corn still has some texture! Set mixture aside.

For scallops: place scallops on a plate, and use a paper towel to dry scallops (for even browning). Remove the side muscle of each scallop (the little flap on the side of each scallop). These can be chewy! Dust the top of each scallop with just a bit of Chinese Five Spice. Heat a heavy-bottomed large skillet (stainless steel works the best!) on high heat. Add 4 tablespoons butter and let butter melt, bubble a bit and start to brown. Once the pan is as hot as possible, use tongs to place scallops in pan. The hotter the pan, the more caramelized the scallops! Make sure scallops are as far apart as possible to ensure even browning.

For diver scallops, sear side #1 for about 3 minutes, and then sear side #2 for about 2 minutes. Scallops should still be a bit jiggly to the touch but not as jiggly as raw scallops.

For sea scallops (usually smaller scallops), sear side #1 for about 90 seconds, and then sear side #2 for about 30 seconds.

**These cooking times are for medium-rare scallops which is typically how you’d see them served in restaurants! If you overcook scallops, they become rubbery and quite unpleasant.

When done, remove scallops from pan using tongs and place on a separate plate.

For plating: Use a spoon to scoop corn puree onto the center of a plate or shallow bowl. Use the spoon to push the puree into a thin circular bed for the scallops. Use tongs to place three scallops onto each corn bed. Add a pancetta crisp, and use kitchen scissors to snip chives over the top of the scallops and corn bed. Serve immediately!

The Steps with Video

YouTube video

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