S C A L L O P A N D S W E E T C O R N C H O W D E R W I T H
S M O K E D S T R E A K Y B A C O N
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 17-20 minutes
Season: Scallops are in season from late July until
December. English sweetcorn is in season from late July until the end of August.
600 g sea scallops, with roe
4 thick slices, about 50 g, of smoked streaky bacon
1 tblsp unsalted butter
1 large onion
1 large waxy potato
2 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 tblsp plain flour
480 ml full-fat milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Grating of nutmeg
3 raw sweet corn cobs, or enough for 200 g kernels
(tinned will work but it is definitely better with fresh sweet corn)
1 tsp olive oil (for frying roe)
Curly parsley for garnish
Begin by preparing the scallops. Take them out of their shells. Scallop muscles are tough and need to be removed before cooking. They are opaque in colour and located on the side of the scallop. Some scallop muscles have been removed before purchase but it is still worth checking as the muscle and scallop flesh cook at different rates and the muscle takes on an unpleasant chewy texture. The roes are the large orange sack sometimes attached to the scallop. Cut between the scallop and the roe and reserve the roe for garnish.
Using kitchen scissors, remove the rind and slice the bacon into thin strips. Place them in a 2 litre casserole or saucepan over a medium heat. Add the butter and cook until the bacon begins to crisp and brown. Once tinged golden brown around the edges, use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with kitchen paper and set aside.
Peel and finely dice both the onion and potato. Gently lower the vegetables into the hot butter and bacon drippings. Sauté until the onions become slightly translucent and softened. Using a wooden spoon, gently rub the bottom of the casserole to help work an browned bits of bacon into the mix.
While the onion and potato are cooking, wash and remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs. Roughly chop the leaves to lightly bruise and release their fragrance. Scatter them over the plain flour and stir to combine with the butter and bacon drippings. Cook for a minute to make a roux and cook out the raw flour flavour. Slowly pour the milk into the roux, stirring as you go. A large whisk may be helpful at this point to reduce the risk of lumps. However, I have found that a spoon works fine as long as you have a little patience when pouring the milk and stir continuously. Add the bay lead and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a grating of fresh nutmeg.
Remove the corn kernels from the cobs by slicing down the cob, turning the circular cob into a square. Then make four more cuts to remove the pointed corners. Don't worry if some of the kernels are smaller or slightly mashed as it adds a nice variation in texture to the finished chowder. Fold the sweet corn kernels into the soup and bring the whole mixture up to a simmer, cooking gently for 5 minutes.
Slice the scallops into quarters, or in half if they are small. Add to the pot cook for 3 minutes.
While the scallops are cooking sauté any orange roes (which you removed earlier) by placing a small frying pan over a medium flame. Measure a tsp of olive oil and gently lower the roe in the pan. Remember not to overcrowd the pan as that will result in a 'steamed' instead of a sautéed roe. Lightly brown on both sides.
Wash the parsley and blot dry with kitchen paper. Finely chop the leaves and thin stems. Fold half of the parsley into the chowder and save the rest for garnishing. To serve, ladle the chowder into deep bowls and top with the lightly browned roe and some parsley.
Cook's note: For the sake of speed, we have used flour and milk. However, for authenticity's sake and for a slighter stew, try substituting half the milk for fresh fish stock and adding breadcrumbs to thicken the chowder at the end of cooking rather than using flour to make a roux.