Sea Scallops with a Malanga Crust
Every four years, my extended family gets together in South Carolina for a week long reunion. Synced to both the presidential election (something to argue about) and the summer Olympics (something to look forward to), we always know when it’s coming. This time I carved out a few extra days to visit nearby Savannah – a city I’ve had a crush on for a very long time.
Having been there only once before on a rushed day trip, I did my research. We saw an amazing show at the Jepson Center and toured Mercer House. We went to Gryphon Tea Room on a friend’s recommendation and lined up for Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room at the insistence of just about everyone else. I didn’t make it to the the Back in the Day Bakery but had an incredible peach crumble cake at Café Florie. One of my favorite meals was at Vic’s on the River. Housed in an old cotton warehouse, I thought it was suspiciously close to the hotel but my family needed a break from my forced march must-see-list. I was rewarded with seared, barely sweet scallops that I haven’t quite gotten over yet.
Vacation long over, I was working on a story about Essex Street Market on the lower East Side when I came across no fewer than four types of malanga – coco, isleña, yellow, and white – starchy like yuca but creamy like boniato. Bringing a few home, I remembered the scallops and decided to try Colombian chef Rafael Palomino’s version with a malanga crust. After finding dry, diver scallops at a nearby market, I quickly fried and ground the malanga into small chips. I didn’t want to risk over-cooking the scallops, so I kept them cold while I caramelized the onions in red wine sauce and roasted late summer corn to serve on the side. After browning the scallops in the pan, I set them oven where they cooked through in a few minutes. Though I’m still nostalgic for Savannah, it felt good to be home and trying something new.
Sea Scallops with a Malanga Crust
Adapted from Viva la Vida: Festive Recipes for Entertaining Latin Style by Rafael Palomino, Arlen Gargagliano, and Susie Cushner. The original amounts listed for the caramelized onions in red wine rendered a large amount of sauce that could be easily cut in half. I made the adjustments below.
For the malanga chips:
1 large malanga, scrubbed and peeled (about 1/2 pound)
Peanut oil for deep-frying
Cut the half in half lengthwise. Using a vegetable peeler, pare the malanga in ribbon-like shavings.
In a heavy skillet or deep fryer, heat 1 inche of oil over medium-high heat to 365º or until the malanga slice sizzles when it touches the oil. Add the slices to the oil 5-6 at a time, turning them with a slotted spoon until they are crisp and browned on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd the skillet or the oil temperature will fall and the malanga will absorb too much oil and become soggy. Carefully remove malanga from oil and drain on paper towels or re-purposed grocery bags.
For the sea scallops:
12 sea scallops
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the caramelized onions:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups dry red wine, preferable Rioja
Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a blender of food processor, briefly chop the chips so they are still visible chunks.
Put the scallops in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using your hands or wooden spoon, add the malanga chips and stir until the scallops are well coated.
In a large ovenproof sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes. Immediately put the pan in the oven and cook the scallops for and additional 5-7 minutes. They should be springy to the touch and opaque throughout.
Meanwhile, make the onions: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and red wine and return to a simmer. Sauté the onions for about 8 minutes, or until deep red and caramelized.
Place the scallops on large serving dish or individual plates. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, top the scallops with the onions and lightly drizzle with wine sauce. Serve over spinach greens with sweet corn on the side.
Makes 4 servings.