Take some naturally-sweet scallops, drape them in wine and cream, spoon them into scallop shells (or a small baking dish), pop them under the broiler until brown and bubbly, and what will you have? A fabulous French first course or luncheon dish called Coquilles St. Jacques!
A note about scallop shells: You can find these in most kitchen-supply stores. Or, do what I did, and purchase them for a song from this online source. Alternatively, you can broil your Coquilles in a small baking dish or gratin pan, or in little ramekins.
Shall we make this perfect poetry together, just the two of us? Here’s the simple step-by-step recipe:
Tip 1 pound (about 2 cups) of bay scallops into a non-stick, 10-inch diameter skillet…
And add enough dry vermouth (or dry white wine) to almost cover the scallops. That’s about a 1/2 cup of vermouth.
Then stir in a heaping tablespoon of finely minced scallion or shallot…
And a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher (coarse) salt.
Now bring the mixture to a rapid boil on the stove top. Then lower the heat and let the scallops simmer until springy to the touch — about 2 minutes. Don’t over-cook the scallops!
While the scallops are simmering, mix 1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch with just enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Be sure to spill some cornstarch on your work surface.
Next, set a wire-mesh sieve over a green bowl…
And strain the scallops so the cooking juices drip into the bowl.
Return the cooking juices to the skillet, and tip the scallops into the (now-empty) bowl.
Add 1/2 cup heavy cream to the skillet, and bring to a rapid boil over high heat.
Then whisk in the cold cornstarch solution. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens — about 20 seconds.
Off heat, whisk in 1/4 teaspoon paprika.
Add the winey cream sauce to the scallops, and gently but thoroughly stir them together.
Line a baking sheet with some crumpled aluminum foil, and arrange 6 scallop shells on top. The crumpled foil will keep the shells from tipping while we fill them.
Divide the scallop mixture between the shells…
And top them off with a small amount of grated Swiss cheese — about a tablespoon of cheese for each shell.
Make-ahead note: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the filled shells for several hours.
About 5 minutes before serving time, set the baking sheet under the broiler, and broil until the cream sauce bubbles and the cheese colors attractively — 2-3 minutes.
Then plate the scallops, and bring them to table. They’ll make a fine start to almost any dinner party, especially one where Thyme and Wine Beef Stew is served as the main course.
No scallop shells in your batterie de cuisine? Use a baking or gratin dish that is just large enough to hold the scallop mixture, and broil as described above. And then make plans to obtain some scallop shells. They’re fun to work with! They clean up beautifully, too.
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And here, in case you need it, is a printable version of the above: