Coquille St Jacques is a scallop gratin with a few variations. But at its heart is a delicious, elegant dish of scallops in a creamy sauce with a crisp topping. Make someone feel special and make it soon!
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I have always been a fan of seafood, and have to say it's one of the things I love about living near a coast. In fact, I sometimes think I couldn't live too far inland partly because of fresh seafood (much as it can be found much more these days).
Scallops have always been one of my favorites. So far, they aren't something my kids have grown to like. I'm not sure if I'm sad they can't yet enjoy them with us or happy that means more left for me. It does certainly seem to mean we have them less often.
This scallop gratin, however, I decided to sneak in for lunch just for myself. I've been doing so much packing and minor repairs in our house before our move it seemed like it was only fair to make myself something nice for once rather than my typical rushed lunch. And this was perfect - relatively quick to make and so delicious.
What is coquille St Jacques?
Technically the name is simply the French for scallops. Specifically, it's what we'd tend to call Atlantic scallops or great scallops (as opposed to the smaller bay scallops or Manx scallops, as they are often called in the UK).
However to most people outside the country, at least, it means a French-style scallop gratin. There are different ways to make this dish, varying in part by region. Coquille St Jacques a la Parisienne, for example, includes mushrooms in the base.
However what's probably most common, and certainly easier, is when you make a simpler wine and cream sauce for the scallops and top it with crispy crumbs. You get to enjoy the flavor of the scallops with lovely complementary flavors. It's relatively rich and so good.
How to make scallop gratin
As I say, there are a few variations on this dish and as a result, a few ways to make it. Having debated options, I decided to follow Felicity Cloake from The Guardian's lead and soften some shallot, add wine to poach the scallops in, then add cream to the reduced sauce. It makes this both easy to make and has a lovely balance of flavors.
Much as I love seared scallops, I think they are better poached here for texture, flavor and ease. I think the seared flavor would dominate too much, plus it means yet another pan.
The topping can be plain breadcrumbs, or with a little cheese as I used here. You can also toast the breadcrumbs in butter which I think I'd probably do next time. Yes, it adds more richness, but this is, after all, a pretty rich dish. I think it would probably fit better, but really as you prefer.
How to serve this dish
If you can get the large scallop shells, you can use fill them with the scallops, sauce and crumbs. They make a lovely presentation. Otherwise, like I did here, you can use small ramekins.
This dish is typically served as an appetizer, since it is relatively rich. It would be the perfect way to start a meal for a special occasion. Alternatively, you can also do as I did and have it as part of lunch.
Coquille St Jacques might sound a fancy name, and it's certainly a special dish. However it's really not that difficult or time-consuming to prepare. And the result is elegant, flavorful and delicious.
Try these other delicious seafood appetizers:
Plus get more appetizer recipes in the archives.
Coquille St Jacques
- ⅓ lb scallops 150g (the larger, 'Atlantic' scallops - should be around 4-6 scallops)
- 1 shallot
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter 15g
- ¼ cup white wine 60ml
- 3 tbsp heavy cream double cream
- 4 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp gruyere cheese grated
- Remove any side muscle/coral from the scallops and ensure they are clean (you can either discard or cook separately for a snack!). Finely chop the shallot.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the shallot. Cook for a minute or two until softened.
- Add the wine to the shallot and bring to a simmer. Add the scallops and cover the pan. Cook around a minute on each side until the scallops become translucent. Remove the scallops and leave the pan uncovered to let the wine reduce down a minute.
- Meanwhile, slice the scallops through the middle to give two thinner rounds on each (they may be slightly uncooked in the middle - this is fine. Divide the scallops between two ramekins (or scallop shells if you have them - you will probably need more if you have the latter). Preheat the broiler (grill).
- Once the wine is looking a little syrup-like, remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir to mix then pour the sauce over the scallops. Push the shallots down a little as needed.
- Mix together the breadcrumbs and cheese and divide the mixture between the dishes/shells with the scallops. Put the dishes under the broiler/grill for a minute or two until the top browns gently. Best served immediately, warm.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
See more seafood ideas for today's Mediterranean-themed Fish Foodie Fridays:
- Baccala Soup from Palatable Pastime
- Seafood Paella from Making Miracles
- Greek Seafood Rice from Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Zarzuela de Pescado from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Linguine Pescatore from Food Lust People Love
- Moroccan Chermoula Baked Fish Fillet for One from Sneha's Recipe
- Mediterranean Shrimp from A Day in the Life on the Farm