About a year ago, two of my favorite people moved from Madison to Atlanta.

It was bittersweet—on one hand, I was sad to lose a couple I so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with but on the other hand, I knew it was something they really wanted. After their departure, I promised to never become close friends with people in Madison who didn’t own a house. At least that way, if people were going to leave, I’d have fair warning of their departure.

Scallops with Gouda Grits | Things I Made TodayIt took us far too long to finally give them a visit, but last weekend, Jason and I hopped on a plane to Atlanta for what ended up being the absolute perfect trip. I never knew much about Atlanta, but the fact that these two moved here meant that the bar was high, and I was not disappointed. We spent the entire weekend walking on the Beltline—stopping in one good restaurant and then another, grabbing coffee and the best pastries, then moving on to drinks and digestifs. We even slipped in some cultural sights and a quick stop at the museum. But really, this trip was about catching up.

Scallops with Gouda Grits | Things I Made Today

While I can’t take the two of them home with me—and trust me, I wish I could—I did manage to capture something of the trip at home. Inspired by a dish I had at Two Urban Licks our first night in Atlanta, I got to making some good ol’ Southern grits this week. A nice smoky tomato sauce, buttery scallops, and a light drizzling of fresh tomatoes and shallots soaked in balsamic vinegar complement the grits in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Scallops with Gouda Grits | Things I Made Today

So to Sierra and Earl—when you’re back in Madison to visit, I’ve got dinner ready for you.

Scallops with Gouda Grits
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
For the salsa:
  • 1 small heirloom tomato, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
For the grits:
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup coarse-ground cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 ounces Gouda, grated
For the tomato paprika sauce:
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, unsalted
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
For the scallops:
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 15-18 scallops
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Prepare the scallops:
  1. Place the scallops on a layer of paper towels. Season with salt and use additional paper towel to pat dry. Gently flip the scallops onto the other side and repeat process. Refrigerate while making the remaining components.
To make the salsa:
  1. Combine tomato, shallot, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Let sit while you make the remaining components.
To make the grits:
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk, water, and salt to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal until smooth. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until creamy, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and Gouda. Season with additional salt to taste.
To make the tomato sauce:
  1. While the grits are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine canned tomatoes, broth, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, adding additional broth if its too dry.
To make the scallops and finish:
  1. Heat canola oil in a heavy cast iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add scallops to pan, leaving a bit of space between each one, and cook on high heat for 1 minute per side, until scallops are nicely browned. Transfer to plate.
  2. Divide tomato sauce among 6 plates. Top with grits, a large tablespoon or two of salsa, and scallops. Sprinkle additional paprika, freshly ground black pepper, and chives on top and serve immediately.


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