I am sure many will agree that there is no greater starter made with scallops than the classic French gratiné – Coquilles Saint Jacques.
In France, Coquilles Saint Jacques is the name for this dish and the animal used in the recipe. Coquille translates to shell and St. Jacques refers to St. James who is strongly associated by legend to this bivalve.”
Coquilles St. Jacques has been high on a list of dishes to prepare, but in my mind I needed real scallop shells to fulfill my childhood memory of this dish. Without shells this preparation has been languishing on the list for at least a year. I decided to put it off no longer.
What changed? I stumbled upon the New York Times recipe for Ina Garten’s version served in gratin dishes and decided that scallop shells were not really necessary to the preparation of Coquilles St. Jacques. This recipe is similar to and inspired by Ina’s dish, but it strays very wide of her recipe.
Conceptually, this is a dish of scallops baked in a mushroom, béchamel sauce topped with a gratin of dried breadcrumbs and melting cheese such as Gruyere. Some recipes are generous with the cheese, but I think a deft touch with cheese is needed because this dish is already rich with dairy.
Julia’s recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques À La Provençale calls for slicing scallops in 1/4” pieces. Others suggest using Bay Scallops. I strongly prefer whole, large sea scallops for this recipe – two per appetizer serving.
The mushrooms don’t need to be the white button types often called for nor does the cheese need to be Gruyere. This recipe uses Shiitake mushrooms and a great melting cheese of forgotten origin. In other words, there is plenty of room for interpretation.
- 8 large sea scallops washed and patted dry
- 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons of minced shallot
- 1 cup of sliced and chopped Shiitake mushrooms
- 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup fresh or packaged breadcrumbs
- 2 gloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 cup of minced flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup of shredded melting cheese such as Gruyere
- 2 tablespoons of everyday olive oil
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add minced shallot to the pan and cook until shallots are translucent. Add mushrooms and oregano and cook until the mushrooms are tender and have rendered their water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Add 4 tablespoons of butter to small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts and begins to bubble, add the flour and whisk until a blond roux forms – about 4 minutes. Add white wine and curry powder and whisk until combined. Add the mushroom mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add cream and simmer for 5 more minutes, then set aside.
- In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and cheese. Stir to combine and then season to taste. Add olive oil until the mixture is thoroughly combined and moist. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Butter the gratin dishes and then spoon a small amount of the mushroom cream mixture to coat the bottom of each dish. Place two scallops in to each of the four buttered gratin dishes. Spoon the mushroom cream mixture over the scallops so that the mixture covers the seafood and comes half way up the side of each dish. Crumble the breadcrumb mixture over each of the dishes and cook in the 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. If desired the dish may be run under the broiler for the last two minutes of the cooking process.