Chef’s Corner: Gary Hawkins, Sophia’s Restaurant


 Photos: Barbara Gauntt

Who: Gary Hawkins, executive chef
Where: Fairview Inn and Sophia’s Restaurant, 734 Fairview St.; (601) 948-3429;
Influences: The seasons exert a big influence on Hawkins at Sophia’s, and a menu change three to four times a year reflects that and allows him to catch items at the peak of quality and flavor. The region is key as he looks to New Orleans for inspiration for an upcoming dinner menu change. Hawkins also welcomed recent gains in the local movement, with a higher profile of farmer’s markets and farmers more attuned to restaurant and customer needs.

What he’s cooking: Seared Maine scallops with lemon Delta grits with grill peach salsa in cilantro oil

Best thing about it: Summer’s a great time for scallops and peaches, happily joined here, and cilantro oil brings another summer flavor to the party. People like lighter dishes for summer, Hawkins said. Peach salsa perks it up and a moderate portion of grits anchors it. “It’s a rather simple dish to put together, but it has a lot of flavor that goes into it,” Hawkins said. Also, “I love fresh peaches.”

Seared Maine Scallops with Lemon Delta Grits and Peach Salsa in Cilantro Oil

For the salsa:
3 firm peaches
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, diced
3 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons jalapeno, diced fine

For the Delta lemon grits:
1 cup coarse grits
3 cups light chicken stock
1 cup cream
3 tablespoons butter
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, grated

For the cilantro oil:
1 small bunch cilantro
2 cups olive oil
2 scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the salsa: Cut peaches in half and coat in olive oil. Salt and pepper. Grill peaches cut side down on the grill 3-4 minutes, then flip over and grill 2-3 minutes more. Place in a bowl to cool, then dice. Combine with shallot, red bell pepper, cilantro, sherry vinegar and jalapeno. Salt and pepper to taste.
For the grits: Bring chicken stock, cream, butter, lemon zest and juice to a boil and add grits. Reduce to low and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring every so often as not to clump up. Stir in grated cheese.
For the cilantro oil: Puree cilantro and oil in a blender 3-4 minutes, strain through a fine mesh chinois.
For the scallops: Sear scallops in a tablespoon of olive oil in a hot skillet until desired doneness – 2-3 minutes on the top side will get a nice color, then flip for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
Place scallops atop grits and serve peach salsa on the side. Finish with a drizzle of cilantro oil.
– The Clarion-Ledger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *