There’s something about classically prepared French food that instantly transports me to another time and place. With each bite I can hear the sexy French accents growing louder, and I can picture the tuxedo-ed sommelier pouring me a glass of vintage blanc de blanc, smiling and saying, “S’il vous plaît, mademoiselle,” as I daintily bite into my buttery escargot. (Sigh)
The French really know something about decadence and luxury, and that’s because they imbibe in the unending pleasures of food and drink each and every day—but always in moderation. How else would those French women stay so skinny while eating butter and cream?
So when I brought home some beautiful fresh sea scallops and Doug asked me to do a French preparation (even though I’d planned an Asian menu—my plans always go awry), I quickly jumped on board and consulted Mrs. Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a book I highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn French culinary technique.
Scallops are a real treat for us, so a ridiculously decadent preparation seemed the way to go. I happened upon a recipe from the Provence region of France, Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale, or Scallops Gratinéed with Wine, Garlic and Herbs. For such a rich recipe, it’s actually pretty easy to prepare—Julia Child broke it down into four easy steps that any home can perform.
For a side dish, I used my leftover Quinoa with Tomato and Cucumber to make quinoa croquettes by mixing the quinoa with an egg, rolling it into small balls, inserting a piece of fresh mozzarella into the middle of each ball, coating them with breadcrumbs, and then deep frying them in oil. I froze several of the un-fried croquettes and re-heated them later by sticking them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350˚F. Serve them with a pre-cooked chicken breast and you can have dinner on the table fast!
I made this as a main course, but it really would be better as an appetizer because it’s so rich; one-third cup ramekins are the perfect vessel for this fabulous concoction. What’s also great about it is that it can be made ahead and then gratinéed (put under the broiler) just before serving. If you like scallops, wine, herbs and cheese, you’ll definitely want to add this dish to your repertoire. Bon appétit!
Scallops Gratinéed with Wine, Garlic and Herbs
This recipe appeared in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She says: “This good recipe may be prepared in advance and gratinéed just before serving. The following proportions are sufficient for a first course. Double them for a main course. Serve a chilled rosé or a dry white wine such as cotes de Provence.” For six scallop shells or six 1/3 –cup ramekins. I set this recipe up the way Julia does in her book: The ingredients for each step are listed right before that step’s instructions. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
1/3 c. minced yellow onion
1 Tbs. butter
1½ Tbs. minced shallot or green onions
1 clove minced garlic
Step 1: Cook the onions slowly in butter in a small saucepan for 5 minutes or so, until tender and translucent but not brown. Stir in the shallots or green onions, and garlic and cook slowly for 1 minute more. Set aside.
1½ lb washed scallops
Salt and pepper
1 c. sifted flour in a dish
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tb. Olive oil
A 10-in. skillet
Step 2: Dry the scallops and cut into slices ¼-in. thick. Just before cooking, sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll in flour, and shake off excess flour. Sauté the scallops quickly in very hot butter and oil for 2 minutes to brown them lightly.
2/3 c. dry white wine, or ½ c. dry white vermouth with 3 Tbs. water
½ bay leaf
1/8 tsp. thyme
Step 3: Pour the wine, or the vermouth and water, into the skillet with the scallops. Add the herbs and the cooked onion mixture. Cover the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes. Then uncover, and if necessary boil down the sauce rapidly for a minute until it is lightly thickened. Correct seasoning and discard bay leaf.
6 buttered scallop shells, or porcelain or pyrex shells of 1/3 c. capacity
¼ grated Swiss cheese
2 Tbs. butter cut into 6 pieces
Step 4: Spoon the scallops and sauce into the shells. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter. Can set aside or refrigerate until ready to gratiné. Just before serving, run under a moderately hot broiler for 3 to 4 minutes to brown through and to heat the cheese lightly.