Last updated on March 12th, 2021
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 main course called Coquilles St. Jacques!
Click the “play” arrow above to watch me make Coquilles St. Jacques right before your very eyes.
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- or 12-inch diameter skillet…
And add enough dry vermouth (or dry white wine) to almost cover the scallops.
Then stir in a heaping tablespoon of finely minced scallion or shallot…
And 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:
A fabulous first course that can be assembled several hours in advance, and then browned beneath a broiler a few minutes before serving time. It's naturally sweet, luxuriously creamy, and definitely delicious.
- 1 lb bay scallops
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup dry French vermouth (or any good dry white wine)
- A generous tablespoon of minced scallion (white part)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 generous tablespoon cornstarch blended with enough cold water to make a smooth paste (for thickening)
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Grated Swiss cheese – a small sprinkling for each serving
- Line a baking sheet with crumpled foil, and arrange 6 clean scallop shells on top (see NOTES below). Then put the bay scallops, vermouth, scallion, and salt in a non-stick, 10-inch diamete skillet. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, then immediately lower the heat, and let simmer until the scallops are just springy to the touch – about 2 minutes.
- Pour the scallops and all of their cooking juices into a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium-size bowl. Return the cooking juices to the skillet, and tip the scallops into the (now empty) bowl. Add the cream to the cooking juices, and bring them to a boil. Then add the cornstarch mixture, and whisk until thickened – about 15 seconds. Off heat, whisk in the paprika.
- Tip the sauce over the scallops, and stir gently to combine. Divide the scallop mixture between the shells, and top them off with a light sprinkling of the grated cheese. (If you are not planning to broil the scallops right away, cover and refrigerate them for several hours. Remove the cover before broiling.) Broil until the cream sauce thickens, and the cheese colors attractively – 2-3 minutes. Serve at once.
NOTES: For the best presentation, be sure to serve Coquille St. Jacques in scallop shells. The shells are available at most kitchen-supply stores. Otherwise, use a baking or gratin dish that is just large enough to hold the scallop mixture.
Raine D. says
You are a genius with impeccable timing! I used to make these more years ago than I care to say, back when I was fresh out of uni & we were all doing the classy entertaining thing with these & Crab Rangoon vol-en-vent & Hawaiian meat balls-with-pineapple skewers & gelatin salads (ok, so I NEVER made any of those revolting gelatin concoctions). I still make Crab Rangoon in puff pastry & meatballs are still on the menu although I’ve upped my game considerably, but I haven’t made Coquilles St.Jacques in years! I have 2 bags of scallops in the freezer & was whinging a couple of weeks ago about using them before they hit their best-by. So, Coquilles St.Jacques it’s going to be for NY Eve! I even have dry vermouth & Swiss cheese. Thank you, & may you & all of yours be blessed with an utterly fabulous new year.
Sounds delicious. And I’ve got some scallops in my freezer. They are much larger than bay scallops but I imagine I can quarter them.
Have you considered browning some bread crumbs in butter and adding them on top of the cheese?
Jersey Shore Amy says
Oh wow! My mother used to make this frequently back in the 70’s!! If I poke around in my cupboards I can probably find her scallop baking shells. Now I know what to do with the heavy cream that is left from Christmas (and hopefully still good!). Thanks for resurrecting an oldie but goodie for seafood lovers.
Think I’ll give that a go. Because my French born late husband would not eat anything with a cream or cheese sauce (although he loved good, solid French cheeses) I always made Julia Child’s recipe for Coquille St. Jacques a la Provençal. No cream, no cheese, lots of garlic, and a good, dry white wine. And crusty baguette. Yummy too. And elegant.
My scallop shells are older than yours, Kevin. Bought them in the 1970’s!
Cornelia Vick says
I love scallops, and I will make this recipe rhis week.
Thanks for all of the good recipes you shared in December. I cooked a lot each week for
my children and grand children who were here during the month.
Hope you have a Happy New Year !!!!!! Cornelia Vick
kathy passie says
Sounds wonderful.. plan to use as a main dish with angel hair pasta. Will toss some olive oil and lemon juice on pasta and scallops on top…
Thank you .. and have a wonderful 2021!
Susan D Hausmann says
This does look great. I will be making this dish. I have the scallop shells. Thank you so much.
Mary Jouver says
Leslie Derbecker says
I love scallops but have not made them for years (eating them when we were able to eat at restaurants) now, thanks to you and this recipe, I will be making them very soon. I also have the shells – if I can find them. Thanks very much, Kevin! Happy 2021 to you and yours.
Deborah Macanufo says
Kevin, thank you again for raising the bar! I was planning a simple outdoor by the firepit dinner with my son and daughter in law. Not everyone has been fully vaccinated. Just French dips on crusty bread, some mostaccioli (that St. Louis baked pasta), assorted crudites with crab dip, a romano herb cottage cheese dip with crustini and a bakery cake w/a sparkler for her birthday and maybe a baby to come announcement! (We are not sure).
But, after reading your lovely elegant and somewhat simple Coquilles St. Jacques recipe, I am trading in the last dip for a more celebratory appetizer.
It is supposed to snow tomorrow, a record for St. Louis in April, so the fire will be most appropriate and now my search is on for the scallop shells.
Thanks again for your ongoing inspiration and keep the home fires burning!