Crackling-Crusted Diver Scallops with Tabasco Sauce and Tasso Ham Candy

Scott Varnedoe

Restaurant IPO - Baton Rouge, LA

Scott Varnedoe uses powdered pork rinds to give his scallops a salty, porky crust. The ham candy can be made a day ahead. Serve with succotash on the side.


  • 2 scant cups cracklings or plain pork rinds
Ham Candy:
  • 1/2 pound tasso ham, thick-cut bacon, or pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Creole seasoning to taste (such as Zatarain's brand)
Tabasco Sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 green onions, very finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/4 sprig rosemary
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 scallops
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Creole seasoning to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Pea shoots for garnish


Grind the pork rinds to a powder in a food processor. Spread on a baking sheet and dry overnight in the oven. (Do not turn the oven on; the pilot light will provide enough heat to dry out the powder.) Store in an airtight container until needed.

To make the ham candy, combine the ham or bacon, onions, cranberry juice, brown sugar, sugar, lemon juice, and Creole seasoning in a medium sauce pot over low heat. Bring to a slow simmer and cook until a syrup forms over the ham, about 15 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and chill until needed.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the green onions, shallots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, white wine, sherry, and Tabasco. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Add the cream and return to a simmer. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes to thicken the sauce. Remove from heat and whisk in the cubed butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until needed.

To make the scallops, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over high heat. Season the scallops with salt, pepper, and creole seasoning, then roll the sides in the crackling powder. Place the scallops in the hot oil and sear until golden, about 2 minutes each side. Add the butter and lower the flame. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the scallops are done. Immediately remove from heat.

To serve, place 2 scallops on a serving plate and ladle some Tabasco sauce around them. Top with the cold ham candy and garnish with pea shoots.


5 servings