This scallops with grilled sweet corn salad tosses grilled corn, watercress, and sliced red onion with scallops that are pan seared in brown butter. The butter, along with a squeeze of lemon, forms the salad dressing for this indulgent yet satisfying salad.
As stunning to behold as it is to experience, this lovely salad takes the sweetness of plump sea scallops and tender summer corn and offsets it with the nuttiness of brown butter and just enough pepperiness from watercress or other greens for a dinner that’s simple, elegant, and seemingly virtuous.
Our only complaint, if you could even call it that, is it calls for you to run back and forth between stovetop and grill. There’s a way around that. Actually, there are two ways. First, do everything on the grill by placing the skillet on the grill rack, standing at arm’s length to avoid flare-ups and being very careful of not splashing butter as you baste the scallops. Or you could boil or broil or sauté the corn inside to keep everything on the stovetop. Just a thought for those nights you’re exhausted and can’t stand to walk those extra steps between kitchen and backyard.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Can I use frozen sea scallops?
We’re all for ease and economy. Although we’re pretty adamant that you use fresh, not defrosted sea scallops in this recipe. Even if you pat the scallops as dry as you can, the moisture in the defrosted seafood will begin to exude from the scallops when you subject it to the heat of the skillet. As a result, the scallops will effectively steam, rather than sear, resulting in a disappointingly sodden crust. Save your frozen sea scallops for a gentle simmer in a soup or stew of some sort where you’re not seeking that knee-wobblingly golden crust and all the accompanying pleasures. And when you want a proper sear on sea scallops, opt for the slightly pricier fresh scallops, each and every time.
Scallops with Grilled Sweet Corn Salad
For the grilled sweet corn salad
For the scallops
- 1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops (about 16)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Lemon wedges for serving
Make the grilled sweet corn salad
- Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Add the red onion and refrigerate until chilled through and crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain the onion and spread it on paper towels to dry.
- Meanwhile, light a grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
- Rub the corn with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, until the kernels are lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Turn a small bowl upside down and place it in the bottom of a larger bowl. Working with one ear at a time, stand the bottom of an ear of corn on the smaller bowl and, using a knife, cut off the kernels so they fall into the larger bowl. Remove the small bowl and add the watercress, vinegar, drained red onion, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.
Sear the scallops
- Season the scallops generously with salt and pepper. In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the scallops and cook, without budging or even touching them, until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Working quickly, flip the scallops and add the butter to the skillet. Cook, spooning the butter over the scallops, until they’re barely firm to the touch, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more.
Assemble the salad
- Transfer the salad to individual plates or a platter. Spoon the scallops and butter over the salad, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve immediately.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My favorite salad! Hot and cold, crunchy and soft, sweet and savory. A dish of contrasts that comes together in a snap. I’m amazed at how few ingredients and short prep time can produce such a wonderful salad.
I sliced the red onion on a mandoline for extra thinness and it crisped up nicely.
A small bowl in a larger bowl was a clever idea to keep your corn under control. I used a blend of green and red butter lettuce due to the unavailability of watercress at my store. I chose smaller scallops that would not require cutting in the salad. I sprinkled Old Bay Seasoning on a few of the scallops just to try a spicier version and they were quite good. A lemon wedge looked nice on the plate and a squeeze brightened up the overall flavor of the salad.
I’ve tried versions of this salad along the coast where I live. This one is very good with the charred corn. You can add strawberries, grapes, and sliced almonds for a more tropical flare and you’ll feel like you’re on vacation!
This scallops with grilled sweet corn salad was a lovely dinner that felt elegant and tasted delicious while managing to still seem virtuous. The combination of peppery greens, charred early corn, and sweet scallops was outstanding.
I used an arugula and spring greens mix in place of the watercress as I couldn’t find any here. A loaf of crusty bread and a glass of wine alongside, and dinner was on the table in 35 minutes!
I love a dinner salad in the summer and this dish with scallops, sweet grilled corn salad, and watercress does not disappoint.
Be sure to use dry-packed scallops, which sear better and taste better. (With wet-pack scallops you are paying for the addition of phosphate and “water-weight.”) Wet-pack scallops will neither taste nor cook as well as natural scallops.
Also be sure to remove that little rectangular side muscle if it is still attached. My scallops were cooked perfectly in 5 minutes.
Originally published August 12, 2020