How to Prepare
Coquilles St Jacques
The topic of coquilles st jacques came up while recently participating in a writing challenge on the writer's forum “Goodreads".
“What is this?” I hear you ask from afar. A taste treat for disheartened taste buds, a culinary expression of happiness, or a physical manifestation of yumminess. And they're good for you! French sea scallops.
Those of you who enjoy cookery will be running off to Google this and come up with some recipes for coquilles st jacques, each more elaborate than the next. Please stop, right now. Or if you do, then at least come back and finish reading this when you've sufficiently boggled your brains with elusive ingredients and tricky techniques.
The whole point of eating coquilles st jacques is to eat sea scallops, not cheesy, spicy, bread crumbly blobs of rubber. I find it best to shy away from recipes with twelve or more ingredients, unless it's a Chinese stir fry or an elaborate pasta sauce.
Where to find French Sea Scallops?
Depending on where you're located in the USA, these could be tricky to find fresh. So, frozen will most likely be your only option. Never mind, you can cook them in a simple yet elegant fashion which will make up for their previously frozen state.
First, let them thaw naturally, NO MICROWAVING!
If you're afraid of your cat enjoying them while you're at work, place them in a covered bowl in your oven (just make sure it's turned off!).
Always make sure to let them thaw on a splatter screen or in a colander. They shouldn't sit around in their juice. They'll get all mushy. Pat them dry. They should not ooze out a lot of water, if they do squeeze them gently in a couple of paper towels.
Never cheat and cook them if they're still partly frozen.
Now to cook them....
Now, get a non-stick frying pan, and melt a small nub of butter, about a teaspoon full for twelve good-sized scallops.
By the way a good sized scallop, raw, is about the size of a large silver dollar. Never seen one of those, hey? OK, about an inch and a quarter in diameter.
And, Yes! Butter! The stuff which is derived from cows, not margarine which might be derived from margers, whatever they may be. Since I don't know myself, I don't want to eat it or let my precious sea scallops wade about in it. Back to the pan.
Once the butter is melted place the scallops in the pan and cook on medium heat about one minute on each side, turning only once. They should not get brown.
Then pour in about a quarter of a cup of white wine, or we prefer to use Noilly Pratt, if you can find it. If not, dry white wine works very well.
Simmer for about two minutes, turning the scallops over once midway. On a pre-heated plate, remove the scallops from the pan and set aside.
Do not put this plate in the oven to keep it warm after you've put the scallops on it. They'll overcook and become small globs of rubber instead of coquilles st jacques. The plate should be heated, bare, in the oven beforehand.
Since I have a tendency to mention these things after the fact, you should also always read through my recipes completely before doing anything at all. Chaotic maybe, but I never claimed to be Julia Child!
The Final Steps
You now have some lovely cooked scallops which should have retained their perfect round shape.
They may or may not also have the orange part along one side which is called the “corail” or coral. Don't ask me what this is, I don't want to know. If you know, please do not write back to tell me. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I do know that it is edible. I eat them all the time and have not grown extra toes on my feet.
You also should have a frying pan in front of you with lots of lovely juices in it. You should add some freshly ground black pepper and a large table spoon of “crème fraîche” to this turning the heat back on, but on low.
Using a wooden spatula melt the crème fraiche around the pan stirring well and scraping lightly to loosen all the bits of cooked stuff to form a really nice light cream sauce.
If you do not have crème fraîche, sour cream will work. If I'm out of all of this, I cheat royally and pour in a little whole milk, and add another nub of butter. Yes, milk and butter from real cows. However, crème fraîche is best.
Do not boil this sauce, just melt it all together and heat it until it starts to form bubbles on the edges. Turn off the heat.
Dress the Plates!
You'll have cooked some basmati rice or some thin linguini pasta to go with this and will now dress each plate (they should be warmed in the oven, bare, beforehand as well).
Place a serving of whichever side you chose on each plate along one half of the plate.
Now place the five or six scallops which make up a portion size, in a half moon pattern along the other side of the plate.
Spoon your cream sauce on the top of the scallops trailing it from one to the other.
Spoon a few teaspoons of the sauce onto your rice or pasta, in the middle of it.
Sprinkle lightly with some fresh parsley leaves, not entire sprigs, just some of the leaves.
Voilà! You have Coquilles St Jacques!
And Enjoy Your Coquilles St Jacques!!
Take your attractively dressed plates to the table and enjoy your meal with the rest of the dry white wine, unless you used the Noilly Pratt. If you did, open an alternate bottle of dry white wine.
Light the candles.
Do not turn on the television while you eat this!
Pretend you're in France and that you're on your first date with your dinner partner, enjoying Coquilles St Jacques.
Clean your plate of the rest of the sauce using some of the French bread.
Finish the bottle of wine and see how things progress.
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