Coquilles St. Jacques.
The French name for delicious seafood in a creamy sauce. Traditionally, this dish is served in the Coquille or Scallop Shell. It’s one of those fancy restaurant dishes that you might never try to make at home if you didn’t know how easy it really is.
Fair warning though…this is RICH! Seafood – traditionally scallops but in this case because Jim requested them, scallops and shrimp. Butter. Milk and Cream. Cheese. All good things but also things that should be eaten with a bit of moderation.
I tend to save dishes like this and cheese fondue for special occasions (this was made for our anniversary last month) but once again, even though the final results are rich and quite spectacular, this is not a difficult or time consuming dish to make.
Here’s what you need:
Scallops*, Shrimp (optional), Shallots, Mushrooms, White Wine, Butter, Milk, Cream, Gruyere Cheese, Flour, Bay Leaf, Cayenne Pepper (not pictured), Salt & Pepper.
Most of the components of this dish cook separately and quickly before it is assembled into individual shells, ramekins, or small dishes. This is important to keep the tender scallops (and shrimp) from over cooking and becoming expensive seafood erasers.
I am able to get pretty good scallops in my local grocery store. Look for DRY PACK scallops as they have been frozen (on the boat) dry or without being injected with a saline and chemical preservative. They might be more expensive, but they will cook and taste MUCH better. Also, please try to find nice big sea scallops for this recipe and not those tiny little bay scallops. If your scallops are huge, feel free to cut them in half so that they cook in the same time as the shrimp. You want things to all be more or less bite sized when they go into the cooking pan.
To quickly poach the seafood (cook it in wine), add 1 cup of dry white wine, 2 medium chopped shallots (about 3 Tablespoons), and 1 bay leaf in a shallow pan. Season with a bit of freshly ground pepper and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
When the wine is boiling, add the scallops and shrimp and cook quickly – only for about 3-4 minutes, turning once during the cooking time. Cook only until the shrimp turn a vibrant pink and the edges just start to curl. The shrimp will help you to know when the scallops are done. Don’t over cook the seafood. I have about 3/4 pound of scallops and 1/2 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the seafood from the cooking liquid. Divide the scallops and shrimp equally between 4 ramekins or small baking dishes. Reserve the cooking liquid.
In a separate pan, quickly saute 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms in 1 Tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Cook until the mushrooms are nicely browned and have released all of their liquid.
Divide the browned, sauteed mushrooms between the dishes of seafood.
If you don’t have individual ramekins, you can always cook this in a medium sized casserole pan. However, the individual servings are certainly part of the charm of this dish.
In the pan you used to saute the mushrooms, add 3 more tablespoons of butter. Melt the butter over medium heat and add 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux or thickener for the sauce. Turn the heat down to low and whisk the butter and flour together until it forms a thick paste.
Add the wine and shallot cooking liquid from the seafood to the roux and whisk to combine. (Remove the bay leaf and throw it away.)
Add 3/4 cup milk and whisk on low heat until the sauce is smooth and no lumps remain.
Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. If your sauce is too thick, add a bit more milk or wine. If it is too thin, turn the heat up just a bit and simmer until it thickens. This should only take a minute or two.
Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream to give the sauce a luxurious finish.
Pour the cream sauce over the seafood and mushrooms in the ramekins.
Sprinkle the top of each ramekin with grated gruyere cheese. By the way, don’t forget to cover your baking pan with foil or you’ll have burnt on cheese which is pretty much death to cookie sheets.
Quickly cook the ramekins under a hot oven broiler. Use a rack in the middle of the oven for about 6 minutes and then move them up to the top rack for the last minute or 2 to get a nice golden topping on the melted cheese.
Do not walk away from these while they are under the broiler. I keep the oven door open just a crack so that I can be sure that they are not burning.
Serve with a light green veg like steamed asparagus and a big chunk of crusty French baguette for sopping up the delicious creamy cheesy sauce.
Add a bottle of champagne if it’s a festive occasion…or even if it’s just a Thursday night in June and you’ve spent your anniversary at the veterinarian’s office. Then, no matter what your day was like, you’ll have a celebration!
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from (of course) Julia Child