This was one of those random dinners that started out simple but, as I surveyed my refrigerator, became more complex (but not complicated). I have to admit that I’ve struggled a bit with polenta in the past. A former boyfriend’s Italian family always had a party on July 4th when all of the men cooked polenta outside over a big pot. The secret was the inclusion of the stinkiest cheese they could find. I’ve tried multiple times to replicate the recipe, but my polenta always ends up dry. This time, however, I managed to incorporate the cheese and keep the polenta creamy. And, let’s be honest, can you go wrong with seared scallops, asparagus, tomatoes, and sausage? To quote Bryan (“We really rocked this one out of the park.”)The final dish was seared scallops with an a light orange sauce served over creamy polenta topped with roasted asparagus and tomatoes, sausage, and fried shallot rings Although there are a lot of steps and you have to manage a few things at once, I wouldn’t say it’s hard. I recommend reading through the whole recipe/instructions first to get a general idea of the steps. I hope will give it a try and enjoy this simple dish with amazing complex and complimentary flavors.
For the Polenta:
- 1 Cup Milk
- 3 Cups Water
- 1 Cup Polenta
- 1/3 Cup Macarpone Cheese
- 2 TBS. Kosher Salt
- 1/4 tsp. Pepper
For the Scallops and Sauce (serves 4):
- 12 Large Sea Scallops (or plan 3-4 scallops per person)
- 4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped
- 3-4 TBS. Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Orange Juice
For the Toppings:
- 16 Asparagus Spears- trimmed to leave only the tender tops (usually top 3/4)
- 1/2 Cup Grape (or Cherry) Tomatoes – cut in 1/2
- About 2 TBS. Olive Oil
- 6 Sausage Links (or about 1/2 Bulk Breakfast Sausage)
- 1 Large Shallot- sliced into thin rings
- 1/4 Cup Flour
- Vegetable Oil
- Salt and Pepper
Begin by preparing the fired shallots. Put slice shallots in a bowl of cold water. In a small- medium sized saucepan, heat about 1 1/1 cup of vegetable Oil (you want about 1 1/2 – 2 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan). Heat oil to a temperature of 350 degrees. Put flour in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Dredge shallot rings in flour. When oil reaches 350 degrees, fry shallot rings ( a few at a time) until crispy and golden brown. Transfer fried shallots to a piece of paper towel to drain.
Next, prepare the polenta. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and water to a low boil (a hard boil will scald the milk). Add the polenta and stir constantly to make sure no lumps forms. Once polenta starts to thicken a bit (5 minutes or so), you don’t have to be as constant with the stirring, and you can begin preparing some of the other components. The polenta will take anywhere from 20-35 minutes to really thicken; just be sure to stir it every couple of minutes to keep from clumping.
In a medium sized saute pan, heat 2-3 TBS. Olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until garlic just begins to brown. Add orange juice and bring to a boil, reduce to a steady simmer to reduce (go back and tend to polenta for a bit).
In the meantime, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a plate or shallow bowl and coat in olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer asparagus to a baking sheet or dish and set aside (go back and tend to the polenta for a bit).
Add scallops to the boiling sauce which should have reduced a little. Cook the scallops in the liquid for about 3-5 minutes (depending on size of scallops). Remove scallops from liquid and set aside. Continue cooking sauce for another 5 minutes or so until reduced by another 50 percent (go back to tend to the polenta for a bit).
Put the asparagus in preheated oven and cook for about 8-10 minutes until asparagus is just browned, but not mushy. Add tomatoes to baking tray and cook for another minute until tomatoes are just softened.
In a small saute pan, cook sausage (breaking it up into small crumbles) thoroughly.
At this point, the polenta should be thickened, (but not dry and stiff). If not, continue cooking. When polenta is thickened, add mascarpone cheese to polenta, cover and remove from heat.
Pour all of the scallop cooking liquid into a bowl or ramekin and set aside. Turn the heat to high, return the scallops to the pan and sear until browned, turning once to sear both sides. Once scallops are seared, return reduced cooking liquid (sauce) to pan.
Assembling the dish: Add a scoop of polenta to the center of each plate (or shallow bowl). Add 3-4 scallops on top of scallops. Add a small smattering of sausage crumbles, arrange the asparagus and tomatoes around the polenta. Drizzle additional sauce over scallops and top with a few crispy shallot ring.