I’ve only attended two or three classes presented by Robert Del Grande, one of Texas’s top chef/restaurateurs. He is perhaps most famous as the longtime proprietor of Houston’s (now closed) Cafe Annie.
He is personable and amusing. More important, though, he can teach as well as cook.
As I awaited Del Grande’s presentation at the Culinary Institute of America’s recent conference here, I remembered a lesson from him I learned years go, and never forgot. It was a discussion about the deceptively simple art of roasting vegetables, such as a tomato or an onion to use in a salsa or a mole, or as a garnish for tacos. You can lightly roast something or you can nearly burn it. In between these two extremes are the series of in-between stages — and all of them will yield a specific flavor. Master these and you’ve learned an important lesson about making Mexican food taste right.
At the Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference, Del Grande taught us another dish that will go into my repertoire: Sea Scallops Roasted in Green Corn Husks with Fresh Corn Mayonnaise.
While it sounds fancy, and maybe a little complex, it was actually simple. Wrap a big, juicy scallop in a strip of fresh corn husk, jab a skewer through it and sear it in butter until the bottom is nicely browned. Flip it and do the same to the other side. Dress it with the fresh corn mayo, top it with some sprinkles of red chile and serve with a wedge of lime.
If one wishes to serve these scallops as finger food (and this presentation was about Latin street foods) the skewers make them easy to pick up. If you’re serving it on plates, it’s best to take out the skewers but leave the husk on. They come off easily.
The best part about the dish, as far as I was concerned, was the Fresh Corn Mayonnaise. It was perfect for the scallop, but looked as though it would adapt widely to many other uses — as a dip or a spread as well as a topping.
The basic technique is to pull of the husks and silk on fresh ears of corn, then grate the raw corn on a grater over a bowl. The result will be a wet, starchy purée of corn. Heat up butter in a skillet, add the corn and cook it, stirring. As Del Grande pointed out, it looks just like scrambled eggs as you cook it.
The corn is mixed with mayonnaise, olive oil, lime juice and salt then used to top the scallops.
Other beautiful dishes were prepared that day, and we’ll run more of the recipes in the near future. But, for me, this dish was a great excuse to drive out to Costco for a pound of fresh scallops.
Click below for Del Grande’s recipe: