Yield: Makes 5 cups
Chock full of scallops, this thick, creamy, classically flavored chowder showcases the mollusks’ silken texture.
1 lb. dry sea scallops, side muscle removed
4 slices bacon
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. unsalted butter
2 small celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 8-oz. bottles clam juice
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. canola oil
Reserve four of the scallops for garnish and cut the remaining scallops into 3/4-inch pieces.
In a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Crumble once cooled.
Pour off the fat and wipe out the pot with paper towels. Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot over low heat. Add the celery and onion, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes to get rid of the raw flavor. Whisk in the clam juice until smooth. Add half of the bacon, the potatoes, cream, bay leaf, thyme, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in the scallop pieces and parsley. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to keep warm.
Pat the reserved scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat an 8- to 10-inch cast-iron or other heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and the remaining 1 tsp. of butter. Season the scallops very lightly with salt, and cook, undisturbed, until well browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until just barely cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes more, depending on size. Transfer to a plate.
Remove the bay leaf from the chowder. Divide the chowder among four shallow bowls and garnish each with a seared scallop. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon and a little freshly ground black pepper, and serve.