Adventures in Eating: Coquilles St. Jacques
Rosemarie | August 1984
One of my favorite pastimes, and perhaps yours, is reading cookbooks! They are part of my recreational reading. I recently found a box of recipes cut out during high school days. Very often, my mind takes off and I wonder how, where, and when some recipes came to be. Names like Angels on Horseback (oysters wrapped with bacon), Blueberry Buckle, Shoo-Fly Pie, continue to grab my imagination.
Recently, I came across the story of a seafood entree which is one of my favorites. It can be used as a first course, or a main entree when served with a hearty salad and crisp French bread.
Coquilles St. Jacques was a dish conceived to honor the annual pilgrimage of half a million people to the burial site of St. James, the patron saint of Christians around 812, located in Santiago de Compostella in Spain. The pilgrimage started from the Tour St. Jacques (Tower of St. Jacques) in Paris. (St. James translates to St. Jacques in French). Many miracles were and still are attributed to him. One such miracle states that a bridegroom riding his horse on the sands was swept to sea. The bride appealed to Santiago, and the groom was raised, wearing a white robe and covered with cockleshells. “I shall take the cockleshell,” became the pilgrims’ cry as they would start the pilgrimage. It is a 900 mile journey and still practiced today.
Scallops cooked in wine and served in cockleshells is now a famous dish befitting this yearly trek. Quite appropriately, it is called:
COQUILLES ST. JACQUES
1 lb bay or sea scallops
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 t salt
Dash of white pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup butter
3 T flour
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/4 cups buttered bread crumbs
Rinse scallops in cold water (if scallops are large, cut in halves or quarters). Combine scallops, water, wine, salt and pepper in saucepan and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, or until scallops are tender. Remove scallops from pan and reserve cooking liquid. Simmer liquid until it is reduced to 3/4 cup. Saute mushrooms and green onion in butter until tender and stir in flour. Add reserved cooking liquid & half and half and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Fold in scallops and 1/4 cup cheese. Spoon scallop mixture into 4 large baking shells or individual 10 ounce baking dishes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Edge dishes with crumbs and bake in 375° oven for 15 minutes or until crumbs are lightly browned.