Thursday, November 7, 2013

Coquilles St-Jacques – Hey, Have You Tried That New Saint James Diet?

Coquilles St-Jacques is the kind of unapologetically rich shellfish dish that we used to be able to enjoy, before the book-writing dieticians and celebrity chefs ruined it for everybody. 

Fats of all sorts were demonized, and young cooks far and wide were told to never, ever, under any circumstances, cover-up the delicate flavors of seafood with heavy sauces, especially ones containing cheese.

So, an amazing recipe like this went from classic French treat to crime against nature, and it slowly but surely started disappearing from menus. You can still find it in a few of the braver bistros, but to enjoy on any kind of semi-regular basis, you’ll need to master it at home. The good news is that’s very easy to do.

By the way, this is a great recipe for entertaining larger groups during the holidays, since it can be prepped well ahead of time. For this reason, Coquilles St-Jacques has always been a favorite of caterers and banquet chefs, and below the ingredients list, I’ll give some instructions on how they do it.

You can use sea scallops like I did, or the smaller, sweeter bay scallops, which are really nice in this. Of course, if you use bay scallops, you’ll only need a minute in the simmering wine, so be careful. No matter what you use, be sure they haven’t been dipped in a preservative solution. If you buy them frozen, which you should, the label should only say, “Scallops.”

The shells can be easily found online, or at your local restaurant supply store. Otherwise, simply use some small, shallow gratin dishes, which will work exactly the same. Find something, and give this “scallop recipe that time forgot” a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced shallots
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1 pound sea scallops (about 3 scallops per person)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
cayenne to taste
2 tsp minced tarragon
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Broil on high, about 8-10 inches under the flame, until the scallops are hot, and the cheese is browned and bubbling. Because of the sugars in the wine and cream, the edges will brûlée or burn, but this is not a problem, and actually how it’s supposed to look.

NOTE: You can make these ahead, and refrigerate until needed. Since they will be cold, you’ll need to bring back to temperature before you broil them. Preheat oven to 350 F. and bake for about 12-15 minutes (will depend on how you constructed them), or until the centers are just warm. Switch oven to broil, and broil on high as shown. 

36 comments:

Brian Duggan said...

Chef Rorschach? More like Chef Mandelbrot, lol.

PJ said...

Please share with us which of the thousands of varieties and brands of white wine you use in these seafood recipes.

Chris K. said...

How do you wash the scorched fond off the scallop shells? Are they dishwasher safe? Or do you just chuck 'em?

Chef John said...

You just soak the shells and they clean easily. The outside gets darker with use, but no issue.


Chef John said...

PJ, Literally any $10 bottle of Sauvignon blanc would be great.

Chef John said...

By the way, mine had a screw cap.

Ryou said...

Oooh, this looks amazing! My favorite Japanese restaurant offers a similar dish, sans the mushroom. What they do use is a bit of miso in the cream sauce. It works surprisingly well.

TallIowegian said...

Another wonderful recipe! Unfortunately I live >800 miles from the nearest ocean. Even if they look quite presentable and command a high price scallops sold here range from 'delicious!' to 'vaguely aquatic' to 'I wish this were tofu'. Would you suggest any substitute?

pipette1110 said...

I will try this one soon i think... I'ma not a big fan of St-Jacques but the first time i cooked them i loved it! i grilled the st-jacques in a pan with finely chopped hazelnuts and shallots, it was excellent! you should try this!
Have a nice day Chef John!

Jason Smith said...

OH, CJ! This was perfect! I made this at work with leftover scallops in a 2 inch, half hotel pan....it's even better without the roux!

Sandra from Montreal said...

I can't wait to try making this at home. They've never really disappeared from menus here in Quebec (maybe we're behind the times?), but here they're usually made with shrimp and scallops, and finished with mashed potato puree around the outside. I like your simpler approach much better!
:)

Lisa McGregor said...

Hi Chef John. This sounds like a great recipe. I made Coquilles St Jacques a few months ago for the first time after having the shells in a cupboard for years unused. My recipe is similar to yours but without the tarragon and lemon zest. When I can get my hands on some scallops again (not very easy to obtain in South Africa), I will most certainly try your recipe. Take care. Lx

Veronica said...

I have to tell you this: I found a freakishly small wooden spoon in a new shop in my town now. I smiled and bought it. Been a fan for many years Chef John! You're great!

wendyc said...

Chef Rorshach--you kill me!!

philogaia said...

I attend a large gathering of people who don't have family in the area every Thanksgiving. It is one time that people really pull out the stops either to impress or to share favorite family recipes. I hadn't yet decided what I would bring this year and have the added logistic of flying down to your fair city the week prior, driving up to Mendocino to kayak and end up in Portland the day before Thanksgiving. This recipe looks elegant and also easy. Question for you: We have a lot of wild mushroom varieties up here right now. Would Chantrelles go well for this dish? Seems to me like they would be nice.

Linda Cornell said...

Where's the egg yolk in the ingredients list?

Sandra Schultz said...

WWooohhaaaaa!!
This gives me the o-ll--lll shaka shaka!!!
You should be knighted!

Jude said...

Enjoyed the video greatly. Lord, I wanted to lick those scallop shells.

Selena Martins said...

Hi chef, I have a wish. I would love to know if you have a special jam or marmalade recipe. I'd love to earn that from you!!!

Selena Martins said...

I meant "learn" :) I just tried making my first batch of jam. I wanted to make a very simple but delicious quince jam that I tried and loved in italy last summer. I ruined it, it tastes like sugar wax that mum used to make from sugar and lemon way back when...
I got the instructions from internet but it seems I can only make your recipes. please plase please teach how to make jam like a pro.

Did I say please? Please chef :)

Chef John said...

I don't think I've ever made real jam. I'd have to learn first. :)

Marjan Radman said...

John,
deep reverence.
There are a few chef's sites I visit, but I keep coming back to yours.
Highly professional, entertaining and interesting.
Do not ever retire!

tonkaslim said...

We don't like scallops so I'm going to try this with sea bass. I'll let you know how it goes.... Everything else looks delicious.

Mike said...

Are there any substitutes for the wine you recommend?

Thanks

Selena Martins said...

Chef John, I live in a world in which you can cook and make everything please don't ruin that hahaha ;)

Gretchen inNOLA said...

In your text, you say you "should" buy frozen scallops?

Chef John said...

Yes! Wild caught scallops flash frozen on the boat are the best choice!

lostjellyfish said...

I saw this video last week and just managed to cook it tonight. Yum! Absolutely amazing dish (although I didn't have tarragon handy) - still turned out great.

Thanks for the fantastic video and recipe - always a treat to watch, cook and eat.

The scallops I had were quite small so only did them for about a minute each side - turned out perfectly tender.

Bill said...

How do we make this for the boss?

S/V Blondie-Dog said...

Hi Chef, glad to see ya' back 'cause I gots' me a dilemma of sorts. For ya' see, I was all prepped and ready to cook up your Scallops recipe until my finicky lady-friend hi-jacked my recipe and confiscated my scallops.

She claims that she's got an even better recipe involving leftover Champagne, and a hoity-toity vanilla bean. How should I perhaps deal with this situation other than to grow a pair? I fell so pursed-whipped. Thanks. You're da' best.

Chris Burg said...

Thanks Chef for such a delicious recipe. I made this and your garlic shrimp over homemade pasta for my wife on Valentine's day. Both dishes turned out great! Now she has bragging rights at work Monday morning, can't hardly get better than that since she works in a commercial kitchen. Thanks again!

Fr. Tom Pomeroy said...

You mentioned in the video that on the website you would say to make this in a larger quantity. I did not find that on this website?

Chef John said...

Sorry, not sure what you are referring to! The ingr. here are for 4 portions, which can be doubled or tripled. I probably said this was a good choice for larger groups.

HelpMe said...

Hello Chef John....I have enjoyed all your recipes that I've tried - very straight forward. You mentioned that you can make these ahead of time. Do you just put them in the fridge and then heat them under the broiler longer? Thanks for letting me know.
Jeff

Chef John said...

Yes that's it! enjoy!

Kayla gray said...

Hi I was wondering if there is a substitute for wine since I'm under drinking age and would have a hard time trying to get some without ruining a surprise dinner. Please let me know. Thanks Kayla