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Side Suggestions to Pair with Amazing Scallops Please!

My fiance is visiting from Germany in two weeks and I'm already plotting the menu of what I'll cook for him, but I'm stuck on the sides! For the main I'll be making seared scallops, with beurre blanc sauce. Our local market has great fishmongers and I've been seeing huge, fresh scallops there regularly, so that will be the main. I just can't figure out what to have for the side! I think I'll be ok with the veggie side, just go with a quick saute of whatever looks good at the market (but I'm hoping for broccolini or asparagus) but I can't figure out what to do for a starch.

Here's some thoughts, please tell me what you think-

1) I keep coming back to polenta even though it doesn't exactly fit with scallops in my mind. But I think my fiance would love a rich polenta made with milk and parmesan.

2) I don't particularly like rice dishes, but scallops seemed to go well with risottos, which I've made with some success in the past. Still, this seems like a more labor/flavor-intensive dish and I want the focus to be on the scallops.

3) Roasted potatoes?

4) Maybe a warm orzo salad with roasted zucchini and a squeeze of lemon? This appeals to me, but as a true side, not to place the scallops on to catch the yummy sauce (which fiance loves).

So, which one gets your vote? Or better yet, what brilliant ideas do you have for me? Thanks!

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  1. Brilliance is not my forte .... but I might suggest:
    I like the asparagus idea.
    Couscous cooked in chicken stock and butter, topped with sliced toasted almonds?
    I might toss a bit of chopped parsley on top but not cilantro. I think the cilantro flavor would be too strong for this.

    1. I made scallops tonight (as an appetizer) and creamy polenta with mascarpone as a side for the veal I made for dinner. I think the creamy polenta would be great with your seared scallops! I'm with you on the asparagus--so tasty sprayed lightly with olive oil and whatever spices suit your fancy...we often use Penzey's Sunny Paris and roast 'em in the oven.

      1. For some reason I love pasta with pesto as an accompaniment to scallops. I think the first time I had pesto, there were scallops as well, so that might explain in. But they do seem to do well together.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rememberme

          There's a recipe that I'm making tonight for guests from a favorite cookbook of mine--grilled scallops over fusilli with mint pesto, sun dried tomatoes and balsamic glaze.
          It's a really nice combination. And great colors, too....

        2. I would do couscous as well, or quinoa (it's easy and tasty and you can flavor it up every which way, skys the limit). Any roasted vegies would be great, like the asparagus or even brocolli or brussel sprouts. Even a sautee of spinach would be nice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lexpatti

            I second the quinoa. It is an amazing side. Also, I would suggest a puree of winter squash which brings out a really nice flavor for something different.

          2. I can see I am thinking such a way bit different than anyone else here. First, I woudl love brilliant fresh steamed green beans, the kind you just want to pick up and nibble. When I think awesome scallops as the main, one of the things I wantto do is balance tastes and textures. I liek the steamed green beans, because they are bright in taste ( broccolini or asparagus I see as heavier) and they are very snappy in texture. Now for me awesome driver scallops have that camelized sear and velvet inside. So since I have that testure as my main course, I want snappy light bright on one end (steamed green beans) so I want smooth smooth starch. I personally would go with an ultra decadent butter creamed mashed potato, with a touch of white truffle oil. Ah!

            Or I might go, depending on what is in market, if fingerling potatoes were there, super fresh frites, especially if I saw purple fingerlings.

            1. When you have great seafood I like to let the seafood be the star of the plate. I would keep it simple and just go with some roasted baby red potatoes. Sometimes the simplest things are the most elegant.

              1. My favorite scallop recipe is Gratin of Scallops, Tomato & Basil.

                Cut 3 or 4 smallish tomatoes in half and pan sear them to get some carmelization on the cut sides. Remove them, and then sear your scallops. Remove the scallops. Add butter and flour to make a light roux, then thin it out with cream. Return the tomatoes & scallops, add a 'handful' of julienned fresh basil, and simmer to warm through. Plate and sprinkle with shredded Swiss Cheese.

                1. i immediately thought of polenta, too! but what about a polenta or stone-ground grits souffle or gratin, with some parm cheese, and crusty on top!

                  or crispy grits: cool cooked grits, and cut out in a diamond or other shape (like polenta) and then fry up in some butter!

                  i like the crispy texture from a well-structured ground corn dish to play off the silkiness of the scallop interior.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: alkapal

                    That's it! Perfect, I think I've decided on the polenta/grits souffle! That sounds wonderful, and I think I've found a recipe here on chowhound. Just kind of clicked for me.

                    Thanks for all the other ideas, they all sound wonderful and I'd love to try in another setting. For this one I want to keep the flavors really pure so no added tomatoes or pesto, etc.

                    1. re: mjhals

                      hope it went well. i love scallops! .... and grits. ;-).

                  2. Instead of potatoes, I'd do a cauliflower puree. Cauliflower and scallops play very nicely together.

                    1. Love the scallops ... I love roasted asparagus, just olive oil, salt and pepper to me it doesn't get any better. Besides you have a sauce for the scallops. Green beans or roasted beets are my next choices.

                      Sides a few potato dishes and 1 pasta. I love risotto, but I agree concentrate on the scallops, with the sauce on that I like more of a potato, but that is just me. Polenta to me doesn't match, but again, just my taste.

                      #1 Pan simmered diced potatoes in cream they lightly mashed with fresh spinach, garlic and shallots. Easy and quick. It is mashed but not all the way, fresh wilted spinach, great flavor and contrast, creamy and a great side. I have also added some roasted red pepper with this a few times just for color.

                      #2 My tomato, potato and leek bake. Simple again. Sliced red potatoes, sliced leeks and thin sliced tomatoes. Layer potatoes, leeks and fresh tomatoes, top with a little parmesan another layer of the vegetables, a little bread crumbs and cheese, add some milk and bake. Creamy rich gooey, great flavor. Like a gratain but fresh tasting as well. Make ahead, then just bake when ready. I can send exact details if you want, just ask.

                      #3 is my roasted potatoes, tomatoes and artichokes. I roast potatoes cut in quarters, frozen (defrosted of course) artichokes and fresh tomatoes in olive oil. I then add some herbed butter (buy or make your own) either or and toss the vegetables

                      $4 A nice Tagliatelle (sp?) A simple dish with some pan sauteed shallots, garlic, salt and pepper and nutmeg and fresh spinach, add to the tagliatelle and marscapone cheese. Great dish. I also make this with some chicken broth and parm if you don't want it that heavy. It is a great simple side dish.

                      #5 Spinach pasta, roasted red peppers, black olives, crimini mushrooms sliced, shallots and a creamy herbed butter and a little heavy cream (not much). A really pretty side dish

                      #6 My fried potato cakes. I make thick mashed potatoes (or buy a pre made if you run short on time) I scoop small patties and freeze just like burgers. Then I dredge in pesto and then bread crumbs. Just saute and serve. Amazing!! Top with mozz and even better. I have added parm to the bread crumbs too, also equally as good. Simple and make ahead. Just saute after the scallops are done, takes 5 minutes if that. Top with some fresh diced tomatoes that have been marinating in some olive oil and some herbs and diced onion. Simple tomato relish but makes a great potato side.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        I second your roasted asparagus suggestion, as well as roasted beets. Very easy, and it screams "Spring".

                        Has anyone tried roasted cauliflower? It's exceptional. Break head into pieces, toss w/EVOO & some lemon pepper, then roast. The downside is that it's the same color as the scallops, and I am big on a variety of colors on a plate. I have purchased multiple heads in the past, roasted and eaten it all.

                        Those scallops might look good on a bed of sauteed fresh spinach.

                      2. I've thought about your meal for a bit . . . here's some thoughts (and I've not made this - please consider all 'commands' as IMHO):

                        Scallops have a definite texture and sweet flavor - and I think should be paired with a softer texture and a minor tang to bring these attributes forward. A combination of mashed potatoes and cauliflower (2:1 to 3:1) prepared with lots of cream/butter and a very small amount of horseradish will provide both contrast and complimentary flavors. The mixture will be white like the scallops so I'd torch or broil small mounds for color. I'd also like to acknowledge the sea where the scallops lived so I'd do a fish broth with garlic and thyme that will serve as a shallow 'lake' for the major ingredients on the plate. The green would be asparagus heads cooked al dente added to the broth at the end. Sear the scallops and place them front and center as the main attraction to the plate. To finish, a squeeze of lemon and a small garnish of chopped italian parsley.

                        EDIT - this dish is also designed in my mind for a set of my plates that are large, wide brimed with a slighly shallow center. I'd put a couple of garlic crostini on the edges and a very small slice of lemon. I wish I could make this since I have it so much in my mind but my SO can't eat it.

                        1. Herbed Lemon Orzo.

                          Lemon and scallops go together so well.


                          1. Make the scallops the centerpiece. Don't do a starch to serve alongside. Do a pasta/polenta/farro course sepately instead, then do the scallops with something like sauteed spinach or roasted asparagus and no carbohydrate on the plate.

                            Or ignore that. Make a simple pasta with butter, sage, white wine and garlic. Serve the seared scallops atop. as an all-in-one

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dmd_kc

                              when i cook seafood at home I dont like to use strong overpowering flavours i keep it simple and quick. I usually steam scallops with spring onions, ginger, chinese rice wine, light soy sauce and with some greens on the side e.g baby bok choy, asparagus, gai lun.

                            2. Get whole leaf spinach, rinse the leaves. Decorate the center of the plate with a thin layer of leaves, place a dawt towel over the leaves, and microwave it for about 30-45 seconds. Plate the scallops ontop of the spinach, your sauce will create a creamed spinach.

                              I have seared scallops and them drizzeled them with a reduction of the following:

                              1/2 cup of pom juice
                              1/2 cup of orange juice
                              2 tbl of balsamic
                              1tbl of sugar

                              Reduce in a pan until it turns intoa syrup, pour it over the plated scallops.

                              Good Luck.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                One restaurant I went to a few months ago did a similar reduction. It was great. I used it over salmon and it is wonderful too.

                                1. re: kchurchill5

                                  I have done that too. The concept actually came from a Weight Watchers recipe book that my wife brought home.

                                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                    I'm sure their are many versions out there this is a simple sort of basic combo but oh soo good. I have been doing orange juice, pineapple and brown sugar over spinach and salmon for years. No pomegranate is popular. Good addition.

                                  2. re: kchurchill5

                                    This was a restaurant in MN I went too, I was salmon but the spinach was already sauteed with some shallots or onions and shitaki mushrooms but it was very good. I did a few similar versions here. The pomegranate was too strong and I used a dash of cranberry and some pineablle for some sugar which was good.

                                2. I make a scallop dish that is really yummy with yellow rice and loads of veggies. You could make a side of rice or couscous with the zuchini, peas, carrots and yellow rice...
                                  i'm not saying drop your scallops in the rice like I do, but it is really a delicious side.

                                  1. similar to alwayscooking's thoughts, i think texture is important. i enjoy the texture of gnocchi served with scallops. you could go a couple of different ways - pesto, as others have mentioned, tossed with the gnocchi makes a nice combo or you could even do a sweet potato gnocchi that will enhance the sweetness of scallops, with a simple brown butter sauce.