Chilled Corn Soup with Scallop Salad

I admit I'm quite ready to be done with this summer heat and that I'm actually longing for the crisp coolness of fall. I'm ready to be done with summer for the simple reason that my evaporative coolers are literally driving me mad. They've always required a lot of attention but this year they've necessitated a considerable amount of additional hand-holding as they shudder, groan and weep excessive amounts of water off the roof of my modest home. I have made frequent calls to my local handy-man because you know I'm not hoisting myself up onto the roof of my house, teetering precariously on a metal ladder - I know my limitations.

But wishing summer was over would mean I'd have to say goodbye too soon to the wonderful produce I've been enjoying, and I'm not quite ready to do that. So instead, I'll sacrifice (surprisingly not very quietly) and "suffer" with chilly bowlfuls of creamy corn soup topped with sweet scallops and fresh herbs.

And because you are a dear friend and have listened patiently while I laid bare my soul, putting up with me most graciously, I'm sharing the recipe. Okay, so I would have shared the recipe regardless, you know that. This chilled soup is the perfect little starter for your next dinner party, or a lunch-time treat you can keep all to yourself ... after walking it past everyone in the office of course.

This is my adaptation of a recipe I discovered in Bon Appétit - I've substituted scallops for their lobster because a) I actually prefer the sweeter more tender meat of a scallop over lobster and b) I did not have access to either fresh nor frozen lobster when I made the soup. You could certainly make the salad with lobster meat, of course.

A quick note about quality control for this dish: it is a simple recipe and quite breezy to make, but it's important that you not be sloppy here. Go out of your way to find the summer's best and sweetest corn and source quality seafood if you can. It's important that you get a good sear on the scallops which means they should be as dry as possible when they hit the hot pan. If you shy away from cooking seafood in anything but non-stick skillets, do not fear. I'm going to walk you through it.

First, make sure your scallops are thoroughly thawed if using frozen (no judgement here - I only have access to frozen seafood in my small, land-locked town, it's not like I'm lingering at the docks in San Diego or San Francisco, waiting for the boats to come in), and gently but firmly pat them dry with a paper towel. If any moisture comes off of our out of your scallops, they will steam in the pan and you won't get that golden-brown crust.

Use equal parts oil and butter - the oil ups the cooking temperature and keeps the butter from burning, but you want that bit of butter for taste. For scallops, I like to use a super clean stainless steel skillet - a non-stick skillet simply isn't going to give you that sear. Yes, they're going to stick to the pan when you first introduce them, but within 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, they're going to release. Nudge them gently with your fish spatula - if they are reluctant to scootch, they're not ready, leave them be.

It's important to note here  that you have a strong working relationship with your stovetop. Nearly every recipe I've come across for searing scallops recommends your skillet be over high heat. That's probably correct 99% of the time, but I know that my electric stove cooks hot, so my dial rarely moves above medium high. You know your oven, so adjust the heat accordingly. Don't worry - you got this! Flip your scallops (once they release) and sear for just another minute on the second side, then remove from the heat. It's like you're cooking a nice piece of steak (flavorful crust on the outside, moist and juicy on the inside) - just a lot quicker. 

Alright then, the recipe ...

Chilled Corn Soup with Scallop Salad

Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 4

Soup Ingredients

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter     

1 Tbsp. olive oil     

½ yellow onion, chopped     

1 garlic clove, finely chopped     

3 cups corn kernels (from 3 ears)     

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper     

1 sprig thyme

Scallop Salad Ingredients

12 ounces fresh or frozen scallops (try to find diver as opposed to bay scallops which are smaller and harder to sear)     

2 Tbsp. olive oil (divided)

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (divided)

½ small shallot, finely chopped     

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice     

1 tsp. Dijon mustard     

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling     

Freshly ground black pepper     

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped celery leaves plus more for garnish     

½ Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon plus leaves for garnish     

Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) 

Soup Preparation

  • For the corn soup: heat the butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is softened and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes.

  • Add thyme sprig and 2 1/2 cups water to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until corn is very soft, 6–8 minutes longer; discard thyme sprig.

  • Working in batches, purée corn mixture in a blender until smooth (or use an immersion blender in the pot). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. Transfer soup to a large bowl, cover, and chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Scallop Salad And Assembly

  • Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and the pan is hot, place half of the scallops in the pan. Nudge the scallops gently with a fish spatula after 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. If they release easily, flip them gently and cook on the second side for one minute.

  • Remove the scallops to a drying rack and cook the remaining scallops in the remaining olive oil and butter. Let all of the scallops cool slightly before gently slicing them in half (or quarters if they're very large - you lucky dawg!) with a very sharp knife. 

  • For the dressing, whisk the shallot, lemon juice, and mustard in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 Tbsp. oil; season dressing with kosher salt and pepper. Add sliced scallops, the celery leaves, and tarragon and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

  • Divide soup among bowls and top with scallop salad and extra tarragon and celery leaves. Drizzle with oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

  • DO AHEAD: Scallops can be cooked stored covered in the refrigerator 1 day ahead. Soup and scallop salad can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled. Toss scallops with celery leaves, tarragon, and dressing just before serving.