Not everyone eats shellfish, but as a choice at a special brunch it is often welcome. But there’s a secret to be insisted upon: the recipes absolutely must be prepared properly. There’s no in-between. It’s simply not acceptable and can be dangerous if not cooked perfectly.
You will want to advise ahead of time that this is a shellfish special event. Whether you are celebrating or just making a special family meal, if you enjoy shellfish, you will put my recipes on your keeper-list, along with ““Dine in” lobster tails.
Present a beautiful table. Remember, first we eat with our eyes, then our other senses awaken.
Coquilles St. Jacques Winzertanz
- 1 lb sea scallops (rinsed gently in cold running water; not bay scallops)
- 10 or 12 generous white button mushrooms
- 1 green onion chopped very fine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t parsley, chopped fine
- ½ c Winzertanz white German wine; this wine has a little tang, and that works well
- salt, pepper and dried thyme (not the granular one that looks like table pepper)
- sweet butter
- ½ t fresh squeezed lemon juice
- homemade (only) chicken stock (enough to make 2 c when added to broth)
- half and half cream
- breadcrumbs (freshly made from plain white bread or French stick)
- grated old or medium Canadian cheddar cheese (not mild)
In a heavy saucepan, sauté the quartered mushrooms in sweet butter, just once over lightly in a hot pan to sear them; do not overcook, or they will get rubbery. You want the mushrooms still firm to the bite test. Do not add salt yet, because this causes the mushrooms to weep. To the cooked mushrooms, add the rinsed scallops, green onion, bay leaf, parsley, wine and lemon juice.
Bring to a soft boil and reduce heat immediately. Now add seasonings. Simmer for about seven or eight minutes, cover and let stand for a couple of minutes to let the flavours marry. With a slotted spoon, remove just the scallops.
In a small saucepan, make a roux using equal parts butter and flour (five tablespoons each will do nicely); do not brown (watch closely, stirring constantly ideally with a wooden spoon); add to this the liquid left from the scallops and enough chicken stock to make two cups liquid, including one cup half and half cream, stirring well to combine. Add the scallops you removed with the slotted spoon and adjust seasoning if necessary. Scoop the mixture in thickened sauce on to the shells and top with homemade fresh bread crumbs (coarse) and grated cheese.
Place under the preheated broiler, on the top oven rack, until the top starts to turn golden brown. Watch carefully. Do not turn your back on the broiler. Makes eight filled shells.
I started making this dish in the ’70s. It is a combination of several recipes I found and modified until I got it to be how I wanted it. I reprinted this in my newspaper cooking column and have since continued to modify it.
This recipe is so rich it really is a “meal,” and served with any of my spinach recipes will be most enjoyable if you feel the need to make a bigger entrée. I prefer to serve the Coquilles St. Jacques as a “course” on its own, followed or preceded by vegetables or salad. If you still want a larger course, start with one of my bisques. I have a nice seafood bisque and even a lobster one, and several others to choose from.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to find Royal de Neuville rosé (often available in Quebec, a sparkling champagne-like wine that cannot be called champagne because it does not come from the actual Champagne area in France), try your favourite champagne with your Coquilles St. Jacques. The bubbly cuts the richness of this dish and almost acts as a palate cleanser. If you have leftovers in the pot, refrigerate it immediately. This recipe needs special care after it is made; it can go “off” easily, especially if made in hot humid weather. Don’t take chances with seafood. You want to enjoy it.
If you feel the need for a must-have dessert, a plain freshly made panna cotta fills the need. Serve it in a puddle of “reduced” sparkling rose, or reduced champagne, with a sprig of thyme on the side to decorate and an artfully positioned brandy marinated fig, split in half to show its innards. It marries well with the seafood.
Although this is always a “special occasion dish” worthy of a major celebration, treat yourself to this delight often. Everyone will think you spent the whole day in the kitchen. This is one of my recipes for busy people who think they don’t have time to cook. Surprise yourself. You can’t do much wrong with this dish, so long as you don’t turn away from the stove.
An additional special treat for the coquilles:
Cut squares of frozen real butter, puff pastry. Paint each pastry topper with warm compound butter. Top the filled St Jacques coquilles shells with the puff pastry squares. Tuck edges under the shells just a little so the filling can’t escape. Paint the pastry with egg wash.
Sprinkle each top with very fine chopped fresh herbs, your choice.
Arrange the shells on a rimmed cookie sheet, lined with a sheet of parchment. Bake until the pastry is just beautifully golden, because the filling is already cooked.
Lobster Waldorf like no other
Cross-cut shred romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, Boston bibb lettuce, (roll leaves and chiffonade), baby frisée, cored and coarsely chopped. Toss in baby spinach leaves.
Shred a cup of Sartori BelleVitano raspberry cheese over the greens. Add a cup of crumbled Celebrity brand Canadian creamy goat cheese pucks from your marinade jar.
Shred a full cup of lobster claw meat (you can buy whole packages of just claw meat), perhaps using two forks, and chop two cups of poached lobster tails. Mound on top of the greens.
From your pantry storage jar, add a cup of candied walnuts. Add a cup of minced candied citrus rind from your pantry sugar jar.
Next, coarsely chop a cup of Asbach cognac marinated black mission figs from your marinating jar and add to the greens.
Just when ready to serve, drizzle with Mazola Corn Oil vinaigrette, (equal parts oil, white balsamic vinegar, married with white truffle Dijon by Petite Maison, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of figgy jus from your black mission fig Asbach cognac marinating jar.
Grind fresh peppercorns and sprinkle your favourite sea salt.
Toss and serve in a very large punch bowl.
This salad is wonderful and perhaps a great choice for a wedding or anniversary brunch.
Pair it with my all-time favourite, chilled crackling rosé champagne, Royal de Neuville.
Sweet Lobster Lunch
Gourmet under $10. Sweet lobster lunch – small tails – frozen, thawed – steamed over chicken broth. Add a couple of whole garlic cloves and mash them in the sauce later if you like. Remove the meat from the shells.
Melt butter in a skillet. Add the warmed lobster pieces and flambé in very good European brandy/cognac – I use Asbach Uralt. Remove the lobster.
Reduce juices, add cream and scald to thicken. Stir in soft garlic, mashed. Reintroduce lobster and cracked black pepper. The meat is almost sweet. Serve in a warmed shrimp cocktail glass. Really yum.
This is also great filler for crepes. Just make sure the sauce is thickened. You can use as much or as little lobster meat as you like. You can even buy precooked lobster and just gently reheat in butter and flambé. Drizzle with a little figgy jus from your cognac marinating jar.
Another time I might add gelatin and let it set up in individual small moulds. Serve on a bibb lettuce leaf.
You can also pulse the cooked lobster, add a tiny bit of cream, a sprig of thyme and fresh basil. Rough chop in the blender and make blini. Serve with tiny dollop of sour cream.
Add to your lobster repertoire:
Coarsely chop frozen tinned lobster (it is flash frozen on site and a very good product usually). Chop a bit of green onion and a matching amount of chopped fresh celery with leaves. Mix in a little of my lobster oil mayo, a little salt and fresh ground pepper and top with a smidgeon of shredded tarragon and crispy leaf iceberg lettuce. When ready to serve, drizzle with my cognac Black Mission fig jus. Pack a small Parker House-type soft roll very full of the lobster filling.
Or, serve on a blini or fill a crepe with this mix and serve the crepe in a puddle of reduced cognac jus mixed with a little maple syrup.
© From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks – Turning everyday meal making into a gourmet experience