This chunky Vegetable Chowder with Seared Scallops is a kaleidoscope of colors that takes full advantage of good, healthy vegetables. The large seared scallops are a gift from the sea with their delicate texture and subtle sweetness. Plus, they add a gourmet touch to this vegetable chowder making it suitable to serve to guests.
You can make this nourishing chowder any time of the year as the ingredients are always available. All you need to put this chowder together are fresh vegetables, a few simple ingredients from the pantry and those lovely scallops.
We have kept this vegetable chowder low in calories without the usual heavy cream and butter found in most chowders. It is lightly thickened with cornstarch to add body and texture to the amazing mix of veggies. The large sea scallops are quick-cooking with a fast sear in a hot skillet.
What are Scallops?
Scallops are a type of selfish known as a bivalve. The scallop inside the hinged shell is a muscle that opens and shuts the shell. It is that muscle that is so delicious.
The two most commonly sold scallops in the United States are the small bay scallops and the larger sea scallops. Scallops are in the same class of bivalves as clams, oysters and mussels, however, they cannot survive out of the water and die soon after harvest.
The processors shuck the scallops quickly, flash-freeze them and send them to market. If you find un-frozen scallops in the seafood counter they will most likely have a notice saying ‘previously frozen’.
What to look for when buying scallops:
Whether you are buying the thawed, previously frozen scallops or the bagged frozen scallops it is tempting to choose those pretty, pure-white babies. But don’t spend your dollars on them as they will have been processed with chemicals to enhance their appearance. They are ‘Wet Scallops’ and have an unpleasant chemical-taste when cooked.
Instead, look for the off-white, ivory-colored scallops that may even have a translucent look to them. These are the ones you want! They are known as ‘Dry Scallops’. Frozen scallops in the bags will usually indicate if they are wet or dry. If buying them thawed at the seafood counter ask the fishmonger if they are wet or dry.
How to Thaw Frozen Scallops:
Remove the scallops from their package and put them on a wire rack in one layer with the wire rack set over a plate. Place a piece of parchment paper over them and set them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
The reason to set them on a wire rack is the will drip moisture as they thaw and you don’t want them to lie in a puddle reabsorbing the moisture. The dryer the scallops are the better they will sear.
How do you Prepare Scallops?
Scallops are delicious prepared in any manner of ways, broiled, pan-seared, grilled and even deep-fried. However, the most important thing to remember is to not over-cook them as they will become tough and chewy. A large, two-plus ounce sea scallop will cook in 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Smaller scallops will cook in less time.
Tips to Sear Scallops:
Pat the scallops with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible from their surface. There may be a small chunk of muscle attached to the side of the scallop. Usually, processors remove this muscle when they shuck and pack the scallops. If it is still there give it a tug and it should come right off.
A hot skillet will give you a good sear with a rich crust, providing that you do not move the scallop during the sear time. The scallop will release from the skillet when the crust forms.
Vegetable Chowder with Seared Scallops:
This is an easy, healthy chowder packed with healthy vegetables and a bonus of seared scallops. This low-calorie chowder is lightly thickened, not with heavy cream but a slurry of cornstarch. And it is gluten-free! Let’s get started….
- Get out a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot and set it over medium heat.
- Add the oil and when it is hot add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and cook to burn off the alcohol, then add the chicken broth and bay leaves.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are soft.
- Add the squash, tomatoes, corn and seasoning.
- Return to a boil, reduce to low and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
- In a small dish combine the corn starch with the water, stirring to make a smooth slurry. Stir the mixture into the chowder to thicken slightly. Cover the chowder and keep warm while you sear the scallops.
Searing the Scallops:
The most important factors to keep in mind when searing scallops are to pat the scallops with paper towels. Have a super-hot skillet. Do not move the scallop during while cooking. Do not overcook.
- Season the scallops generously with salt and pepper.
- Set a heavy-bottomed skillet or non-stick skillet over high heat and when it is hot, add 1 tablespoon oil.
- Add half of the scallops in a single layer. Cook, without moving, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet.
- Flip the scallops with tongs and continue to cook, basting them with melted butter until the sides are firm, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes longer.
- Transfer the scallops to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat the process with the remaining scallops.
To serve this hearty, nutritious chowder, ladle it into four shallow bowls. Top with three seared scallops and garnish with fresh chopped chives. Enjoy!
SOME OTHER RECIPES WE ARE SURE YOU WILL LOVE:
- New England Clam Chowder: This clam chowder is a milk/cream-based, thick, savory soup made with a lot of clams as the main ingredient with a little smokey bacon, sliced leeks, potatoes, and fresh herbs included.
- Scotch Broth: Scotland’s classic scotch broth is a soul-warming soup made with lamb, barley and root vegetables.
- Vegetable Beef Soup: Old fashioned Vegetable Beef Soup! Loaded with chunks of lean beef and a mix of fresh vegetables in a rich, beefy broth.
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Did you make this vegetable chowder with seared scallops? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below.
For the Chowder:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 6 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 2 cans diced tomatoes (14-1/2 oz each)
- 1 ear fresh corn kernels cut from the cob or 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
For the Scallops:
- 1-1/2 pounds large sea scallops (about 12 scallops)
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chopped fresh chives for garnish
For the Chowder:
- In a Dutch oven or large soup pot set over medium heat, add olive oil and when it is hot add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes and sauté, stirring often for 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in the wine and cook for 1 minute to burn off the alcohol. Add the chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are soft.
- Add the squash, tomatoes, corn, salt, pepper, oregano and Old Bay Seasoning. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- In a small dish combine the corn starch with 2 tablespoons of water, stirring to make a smooth slurry. Stir the mixture into the chowder to thicken slightly. Cover the chowder and keep warm.
For the Scallops:
- Place scallops on a plate lined with a thick pad of paper towels. Cover with another pad of paper towels and gently press to blot the liquid from the scallops. Let scallops sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to absorb moisture.
- Season the scallops generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet set over high heat just until shimmering. Add half of the scallops in a single layer. Cook , without moving, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. Flip the scallops with tongs and continue to cook, basting them with melted butter until the sides are firm, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes longer.
- Transfer the scallops to a paper-towel lined plate and repeat the process with the remaining scallops.
- Ladle the chowder into four shallow bowls and arrange 3 scallops on top of each serving. Garnish with snipped chives.
- Any combination of vegetables can be substituted.
- Purchase 'Dry' scallops and not the 'Wet' scallops, if unsure check the package label or ask at the seafood counter.
- When searing the scallops pat the moisture off of them as they will sear better. Heat the skillet over high heat as a hot skillet will sear them quickly with a good crust.
- Work in batches of 3 or 4 scallops at a time, depending on the size of your skillet. The scallops will release moisture during their searing. Overcrowding the scallops will cause them to steam and not sear to a crust.
- Once the scallops are in the skillet do not move them. When the allotted cooking time is near, nudge them gently lifting a corner to take a peek.
- Use tongs to flip and remove the scallops from the hot skillet.
- This chowder is gluten-free, for a vegetarian version use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and omit the scallops.
Serving Size1-1/2 cups/3 scallops
Amount Per ServingCalories 453 Total Fat 16g Saturated Fat 6g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 14g Cholesterol 50mg Sodium 2100mg Carbohydrates 38g Net Carbohydrates 0g Fiber 10g Sugar 9g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 29g