The name “coquilles St. Jacques” literally means “shells of St. James” in French, surely the most elegant way of saying “scallops.” In the U.S., the term refers to a dish of scallops, usually poached in white wine and placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell that’s covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and then gratinéed under a broiler.
This rich appetizer isn’t as common on menus as it once was, though it is undeniably a French classic; two versions of it are included in Julia Child, HAAC, HHOF’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume one. NCR asked Hari Pulapaka, CEC, to create two versions of coquilles St. Jacques as well.
“Before [I opened my restaurant] Cress, there was a ‘French-Vietnamese’ restaurant at our location. … I recall seeing it on their menu,” Pulapaka says. “Having noted that, I’m sure chefs are using it as inspiration to create new dishes rooted in this classic.”
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see Chef Pulapaka’s recipe.
For a modern take, Pulapaka reworked the basic ingredients to create a more visually striking presentation. He puréed the scallop and butter mixture to a smooth consistency and served the seared and gratinéed scallops atop the purée. Artfully arranged pan-roasted mushrooms complete the plating.
“I am often inspired by the classics in the food I create for Cress. Having never served that dish specifically at Cress, I became interested in thinking through a modern interpretation,” he says. “A traditional version can be heavy. So, I lightened it and infused more of the scallop flavor into the Béchamel. In fact, I used an often discarded part of the scallop, its abductor muscle, for a scallop mousseline as part of the Béchamel. This is in keeping with my commitment to reduce food waste in my kitchen. Full-use kitchens are by necessity more creative.”
Recipe: Classical Coquilles St. Jacques
1.5 lb. bay or sea scallops
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs chopped tarragon plus leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons butter
6 oz. mushrooms, sliced (2 cups)
2 shallots, chopped (2 to 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup soft bread crumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Lightly grease six 4-inch baking shells or ceramic ramekins with butter. Place in 15″x10″x1″ pan.
2. In 3-quart saucepan, place scallops, wine, parsley and salt. Add just enough water to cover scallops. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered about 6 minutes or until scallops are white.
3. Remove scallops with slotted spoon; reserve liquid. Heat reserved liquid to boiling. Boil until reduced to 1 cup. Strain and reserve.
4. In same saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Cook mushrooms and shallots in butter 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender. Remove from saucepan.
5. In same saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly; remove from heat. Gradually stir in reserved liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in half-and-half, scallops, mushroom mixture and 1/4 cup of the cheese; heat through.
6. In small bowl, toss bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Divide scallop mixture among baking shells. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the bread crumbs.
7. Set oven control to broil. Broil baking shells with tops 5 inches from heat 3 to 5 minutes or until crumbs are toasted.
Note: To make the modern version, purée the scallop and butter mixture to a smooth consistency and serve seared and gratinéed scallops atop the purée. Pan-roasted mushrooms complete the modern take.
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