Robust's Pan-Seared Scallops with Ham in Tomato-Truffle Sauce: A Recipe from Joseph Hemp V



This is part three of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Joseph Hemp V of Robust. Read part one, a profile of Hemp, here. Read part two, a Q & A with Hemp, here.

The scallops with ham atop creamy polenta at Robust | Corey Woodruff
  • The scallops with ham atop creamy polenta at Robust | Corey Woodruff

Joseph Hemp V, the chef of the popular wine bar and restaurant Robust (227 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-0033) and its new downtown outpost (635 Washington Avenue; 314-287-6300), has come a long way from helping his mother cook Sunday breakfast for the family. Yet all his years of cooking and watching others cook has paid off with an attention to detail evident on the plate and in the instructions he provides for this recipe.

When I reviewed the new downtown location of Robust earlier this year, one of my favorite dishes was the seared scallops with ham in a tomato-truffle sauce. Here Hemp tells you how it's done.

See Also: - Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Robust (2013) - Adrenaline Junkie Joseph Hemp V Finds a Home in the Kitchen - Being Happy While You Cook and Learning to Love Bourbon: A Q&A with Joseph Hemp V of Robust

Pan Seared Scallops with Diced Ham in Tomato-Truffle Sauce

makes 4 servings

8 jumbo sea scallops

¼ cup diced prosciutto ½ cup diced tomato, dried 2 tbsp green onions, minced 1 tbsp parsley, chopped ¼ cup Water

2 tbsp truffle butter (recipe follows)

3 cups creamy polenta (recipe follows)


2/3 cup cornmeal (the finer, the better) 1 1/3 cup cream 2 cups milk 2/3 cups grated Parmesan salt, to taste

1. Bring the milk and cream up to a boil. Stir in Cornmeal and reduce heat to a simmer. It may seem like too much liquid at first, but it's not. Stir constantly, it likes to burn.

2. Slowly cook the polenta until all the liquid is absorbed and it's thickened appropriately. When the meal is soft and thick, stir in the Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.

Truffle Butter

¼ cup shallots, minced 2 tbsp garlic, minced ½ cup white wine 1 lb. butter, cubed and at room temperature 1 tbsp parsley, chopped 2 tbsp truffle oil

1. Gently sweat the garlic and shallot in a little canola or olive oil till translucent. Do not brown or caramelize.

2. Deglaze pan with the white wine and reduce till almost dry. Take wine mix and chill in the fridge till completely cold.

3. In a stand mixer (or by hand) whip together wine mix and all the remaining ingredients. Reserve 2 tbsp for the recipe. The remaining can be packaged and frozen till needed again.

For the tomatoes: Take a standard can of store-bought diced tomatoes and drain them well. Toss with a little EV olive oil and salt and pepper. Lay out on a parchment-lined sheet tray and dry out in a 400-degree oven till toasted. A little color is preferred. Stir frequently for even cooking.


1. In a HOT large nonstick sauté pan, place the seasoned scallops. Don't fidget, let them cook and get color.

2. When they're nicely caramelized on the first side, flip and begin doing the same to that side. Finished scallops should be mid-rare to medium. If they overcook, they will shrivel and be tough.

3. As soon as you flip the scallops, add the prosciutto and tomatoes and toast a bit. When it's all toasted nicely, deglaze with water to release fond developed in the pan. As it's reducing, add the green onions, parsley and truffle butter. You should end with an emulsified tomato sauce. If it breaks, try adding a little water (1 tbsp or so). You're looking for a rich ragu, not an oily mess.

4. To plate, divide the polenta onto four plates. Place two scallops onto the polenta. With just the ragu in the pan, taste it. Depending on the brand of prosciutto, the salt levels will be different. Adjust a bit to your liking, and then spoon on top of the scallops.

This is part three of Gut Check's Chef's Choice profile of Joseph Hemp V of Robust. Read part one, a profile of Hemp, here. Read part two, a Q & A with Hemp, here.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.