Coquilles St. Jacques –

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Is a traditional French scallop dish that comes in two basic flavors: A La Parisienne and A La Provencale. (Plain talk = city and country). I generally prefer the richer Parisiene variety over the more robust Provencale. The Provencale is heavier with garlic and herbs. I will probably write it up one of these days.

Back in the middle 1960’s there was a restaurant on Piedmont near La Vista called The King’s Table (I think) that served a pretty decent Coquille. If memory serves that was probably the first place that I ever had this particular goodie, and I have been fond of it ever since. At that time there were many good Southern restaurants in Atlanta, also barbeque and steak houses. Oriental meant sort of Chinese, forget Japanese, Thai, Indian or anything else like that. Continental and French were just beginning to appear, and The King’s Table was one of the first that had decent seafood prepared French style. I loved it. They also had European style service. Very impressive for a date. Didn’t take hippisses there – coffee houses with folkie music were good for them.

Herself Sez: It was King Arthur’s Table. And they also had the best steaks I had ever had in my life to that point. I mourned when they closed!!

The basic Parisienne is scallops only and should be served in genuine scallop shells. However, you probably can’t get the real deal without taking the first-born to the bank and hocking him. And his wife might be a bit stuffy about that, so use frozen scallops and/or shrimp. Works pretty well. If you use frozen and/or shrimp you won’t have the shells, so use gratin dishes if you have them, or a reasonable sized casserole dish.

HERSELF SEZ: Obviously Himself doesn’t do the shopping. Scallop shells (cleaned, dried, sterilized, packaged) can be had at the local fresh market for slightly less than the monthly mortgage payment!

Base:

3/4 cup dry white vermouth or white wine (use good stuff)
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 to 10 grinds pepper
1 whole bay leaf or 1/2 leaf crumbled
2 Tbs minced shallots or green onions

Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add:

1 lb scallops and/or shrimp
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
enough water to cover

Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then remove the solids to a dish, crank up the heat and reduce the liquid (boiling heavily) to around a cup. Remove the bay leaf if you left it intact. Not necessary if you really minced it.

Sauce Parisienne:

3 Tbs butter
4 Tbs all purpose flour

Melt the butter, reduce heat, blend in the flour stirring constantly until they foam gently for about 2 minutes. Do not let it brown. Remove from heat and blend in:

The reduced cooking scallop/mushroom liquid (should be about 1 cup)
3/4 cup milk

Back to the heat and boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

In a separate bowl:

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a separate bowl blend the egg yolks and the cream. SLOWLY add the hot sauce mix in small amounts, stirring constantly. If you go too fast and/or do not stir enough the eggs will cook solid. This is not good.

Return the sauce to the pan and boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

salt to taste – go easy
pepper to taste – go easy
lemon juice to taste – go easy

If it is too thin reduce slowly, stirring constantly. If it is too thick add a little heavy cream, stirring constantly. Yeah – there’s a whole bunch of stirring in this thing – not for the faint-hearted. Adjust seasoning to taste, but be gentle with the salt, pepper, and lemon juice. You want to sneak up on the right taste, It is difficult to remove seasonings if you go too far. This is one of the places that sea salt is definitely superior. If the sauce has too many solids you may want to strain it. You want it nice and smooth.

Assembly:

butter
grated cheese of choice – a nice Gruyere or Emmenthaler goes well here.

Cut up the scallops cross-grained about 1/8″ thick. If using shrimp just cut into bite-sized pieces. Mix the scallop/shrimp/mushroom stuff with 1/2 to 2/3 of the sauce. Butter the shells/gratin dishes/casserole dish(es) and spoon the stuff in. Cover with the rest of the sauce. Dot with butter and sprinkle cheese liberally. Put the dishes on a broiling pan.

You’ve done most of the hard work now. This can be refrigerated for up to a day at this point. Do the rest just before serving. (About 15 minutes).

Get the broiler hot and a rack about 8″ down. Slide them in and heat to nicely brown. Serve immediately.

This is traditionally a side dish, but we like it for a main course. With some good French bread – of course. Good stuff.

HERSELF SEZ: Well, when he sent this to me, the Ol’ Curmudgeon sed, “This is about important stuff – y’know – food. Like I said, as I get older my brain moves from my crotch to my belly. Howsomever it is also true that I have always enjoyed good food.”

That is a dangerous statement. Always subject to dispute – from both of us! {snarky grin}

About this recipe, I told him next time to cut back a little on the mushrooms and add more of the “good stuff” (the shrimp and scallops). He SNEERED at me!! I like mushrooms, I love mushrooms, I just don’t like them overwhelming the scallops and shrimpies in my Coquilles St. Jacques! The last time we had it, the mushrooms ever-so-slightly-overwhelmed the scallops and shrimpies to my taste. Of course, my taste is not his taste, nor yours, so vary the proportions of the ingredients as you desire – a little more of one, a little less of the other TO YOUR TASTE!

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