THE Dish: Ted Allen's Scallops with Cheese Grits

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- Celebrity chef Ted Allen started his career as an editor for Chicago magazine's book section, and ended up as its food critic.

Eventually, he landed in Bravo's Emmy-winning and groundbreaking show, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and now, he's host of the Food Network's hugely popular show, "Chopped.".

In May, "Chopped" got two awards from the James Beard Foundation, one for the show itself and the other for Ted as host.

He's also a frequent contributor to the Food Network's "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and recently released his latest cookbook, "In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks."

On top of all that, Ted also finds time to be a contributing writer for Esquire magazine.

He stopped by "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to offer recipes for his ultimate dish, Scallops with Cheese Grits, and more.

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Scallops and Cheddar Grits with Chorizo

Serves 4

The first time I had the Southern classic, shrimp and grits, was on-set during the filming of "Top Chef" in Miami, brilliantly prepared by Dallas-based chef Tre Wilcox in a taco truck. I've been hooked ever since. Here, the same idea, but with sea scallops -- also a sweet shellfish, and one that needs no peeling or deveining. Scallops are particularly friendly with salty, spicy pork, whether it's fancy Italian ham, good old bacon or, in this case, the spicy Spanish sausage that rounds out this dish.

  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup grits
  • 6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (1-1/2 cups)
  • 16 sea scallops, trimmed of tough muscle flap (if present)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 link (about 4 ounces) cooked, Spanish-style chorizo, casing removed, cut into matchsticks or just crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Always insist upon "dry" scallops. "Wet" scallops have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate, which gives them a longer shelflife by helping them retain excess moisture and which, accordingly, makes them hard to brown and obscures their sweet flavor. Also, before cooking, check scallops for any residual bits of connective muscle, which look like little flaps on the side of the cylindrical critters; it is almost always left attached to the yummy part, and is inedibly tough.

1. Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature (usually 170 degrees F) for warming.

2. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 3-1/2 cups water to a boil, and add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Slowly stir the grits into the water, pouring the grits in a fine stream. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the Cheddar, cover, and keep warm in the oven.

3. Ten minutes into cooking the grits, pat dry the scallops, season them with salt on both sides, and heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, then the chorizo, and cook until the sausage renders some fat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the scallops, shake the pan to move them around a little, and sear for 2 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until browned, 2 minutes. Remove the scallops to a plate lined with a paper towel, and place in the oven. Keep the chorizo in the pan.

4. Reduce the heat under the pan to medium, and add the scallions, garlic, and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes, and remove from the heat.

5. On each of 4 plates, make a bed of grits, then place the scallops on top, and drizzle pan sauce and chorizo on and around the scallops and grits. Serve quickly.

Added value: Here's a worthwhile discovery that you can apply pretty much throughout the grocery store: Most products labeled "quick" or "instant" are barely any faster than the real thing, invariably have been packed with weird, bad-tasting, science-y ingredients, and always cost more money. This kind of stuff is invented because there aren't many ways for food companies to increase their profit on the sale of, say, an apple. They have to add value to that apple. So they slice half an apple, sprinkle it with a preservative, and seal it in a single-serving bag: Voila! A ready-packed snack to sell for easily twice the price of a humble piece of fruit, and with a shelflife of months and the opportunity to emblazon a colorful brand logo on a piece of plastic packaging. All of which is to say, creepy. For me, real food, please.

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