julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

More for Me! (Am I Being Shellfish?)

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The restaurant began to fill up, and over the course of the next two hours we had a leisurely and nearly perfect luncheon. The meal began with little shells filled with sea scallops and mushrooms robed in a classically beautiful winy cream sauce. As we left in a glow of happiness, we shook hands all around and promised almost tearfully to return.” – Julia Child

Awhile back, Ben took a little road trip…without me. (*sniff sniff*) One of the very few perks to having a husband out of town is the fact that I get to cook whatever I want! I’ve been eyeballing Julia’s recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale (scallops gratineed with wine, garlic and herbs) ever since I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking last August. I’ve always been a fan of shellfish, and scallops are one of my favorites. I knew Ben would never go for it, so I’ve been sort of putting it off. That is, until he left town!

Ready for a dusting of flour.

Let me just say, these scallops in wine sauce browned with cheese were decadent. Julia recommends them as a luncheon dish or a first course, but I had them as my (small) entrée with a side of leftover soufflé. It was amazing. You’ll especially fall in love with this if you’re a scallop fan, but even if you’re not, I urge you to give it a try. 

As much as I love scallops, I’ve never made them at home. I didn’t really know what to do with them, to be honest. Steam them? Fry them in a pan? *shrug* I just left it to the professionals and ordered them at the occasional fancy seafood restaurant. But last night, I learned that scallops are not only super easy to cook, but can be extremely delectable without a lot of effort. Here’s how: 

These are really starting to smell good.

While I sautéed minced onions in a pan with butter and minced garlic, I rinsed my scallops, patted them dry with paper towels, and sliced them into thirds. I sprinkled them with salt/pepper, rolled them around in flour and shook off the excess, and tossed them into a pan with butter and oil. It didn’t take long for these babies to begin to turn a golden brown, and when they did, I poured in some vermouth and dropped in a bay leaf and a dash of thyme. I added the cooked onions and covered the pan, letting it simmer for about five minutes…which, as it turned out, was a little too long, because several of the scallops were burned in the end. Drat. The good news was I had just enough for one serving of the recipe. Whew! 

I carefully scooped the cooked scallops and some of the wine sauce into a small pyrex dessert dish (Julia recommends using scallop shells, but darned if I could find any. While that would have made an impressive presentation, she gives the pyrex dish the OK.). I sprinkled the top lightly with shredded Swiss cheese and topped it off with a few dots of butter, then ran it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Just as good as - if not better than! - any nice seafood restaurant.

What emerged afterward looked positively heavenly. I couldn’t wait to dig in, and when I did, I wasn’t disappointed. The scallops were tender with perfectly golden edges (thanks to the flour) and melted in my mouth. The wine sauce was just right – light, not too much hint of alcohol, yet a taste of sweetness to contrast with the fish. And while everything I’ve heard on the Food Network says it’s a no-no, the Swiss cheese over the scallops was the final thing to pull it all together. I ate every last bite, and was disappointed I had burned the other scallops because I wouldn’t have minded another little dish of this tasty treat. Oh, well. The good news for me is there’s another similar recipe yet to tackle – yippee! 

The thing that I took away from this meal (other than a smile and a lot of yummy sounds) was that I had learned how to make scallops. And it was so easy! The wine sauce and cheese topping aside, the method of dusting the meat with flour and tossing it into a pan yielded delicious results. I could see these scallops going into some pasta, or served over a green salad. The possibilities are endless! Can’t wait to make more and see what else I can come up with. 

What about you? Got any good scallop recipes to share?

– Jessica

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