Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Whisk Wednesdays—Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce)

Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce)
Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
I grew up singing this nursery rhyme and skipping to "Blue bells, cockle shell; Easy ivy over" and never thought twice about the word "cockle", except to giggle a little. Coquille is French for "shell" and Coquille Saint Jacques is the name for "scallop shell" named after St. James. This week we're making Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise.

Scallop Shells and the Camino of Santiago de Compostela
The scallop shell plays an important part on the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, a Christian pilgrimage to St. James' burial spot at Santiago de Compostela. The cockle shell is St. James's emblem, and you can read the history about it in this article. A friend walked the Camino a couple of years ago, and here are her thoughts on the scallop shell:
"The shell appears everywhere as you walk. It is used as a symbol to indicate direction and is in the statuary and churches along the way.

The most widely held belief is that the scallop shell is the symbol associated with St. James who was a fisherman. The legend is that St. James was buried at Santiago de Compostela. So scallop shells mark the way.

Some say the Camino is a walk towards the sea and the route is marked with the scallop shell because the Spanish beaches have lots of these shells.

Another interpretation is that there are many routes or starting points to get to Santiago and the scallop shell has many lines leading to its base."
Each line on the scallop shell represents the age of the scallop. As the bivalve gets older, it adds another layer to its outer shell, like the rings on a tree. When you walk the Camino, many stamps that you get for your Pilgrim's passport show a scallop shell too.

Cooking Scallops
When cooking scallops, it's better if they are slightly underdone since they can become rubbery when overcooked. I rarely order scallops when I'm out because I don't like the texture when they're overcooked. However, by cooking my scallops at home, I was able to cook them until they were just cooked through. My fork easily sliced into it, like soft butter, and it tasted like smooth custard.

Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce)Crème fraîche, Mussels, Shrimp and Mushrooms
On a foodie field trip last week, I did a crème fraîche happy dance. I've been looking for this hard-to-find ingredient since last year. I guess I just didn't know where to look. Although I've made my own, I wanted to compare it to store-bought (which I still have to do before the April 17 expiry date). I found crème fraîche at Nicastro's in the Ottawa Byward market. The crème fraîche adds a tanginess that would be missed in the sauce, so make your own or find it at your grocery store, if you can. (Nicastro's also has the best cannoli.)

Nicastro'sMy mussels are from Prince Edward Island and my shrimp flew in from China via Farm Boy and were on sale for $3.99 for 454 gram bag. My scallops are from Maine, so my meal was multi-national!

I visited another favorite food store in Ottawa last week called the Byward Fruit Market. They always have interesting fruit (and will even have cherimoya in a few weeks). I bought some fresh morel mushrooms to include in this dish.

Byward Fruit MarketSauce
According to, à la dieppoise means "sea fish garnished with crayfish tails and mussels, served with a white wine sauce". This dish can be made in one large sauté pan. After cooking each item, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside. With each item that's cooked, the liquid builds more flavor.
Sauté mushrooms and set aside.
Sauté shallots. Add wine and parsley.
Steam mussels in shallot/wine mixture. Remove mussels and set aside.
Braise scallops in shallot/wine mixture. Remove scallops and set aside.
Reduce sauce and thicken with crème fraîche. Mix everything together and serve.

Serves 6 (I halved the recipe.)

Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce) mise en place
2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, chopped fine
½ cup dry white wine (you may need more)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, dried, and sliced fine
10 ounces medium-size shrimp, cooked and peeled
18 large sea scallops
½ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream (I would substitute sour cream)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

You can find the recipe for Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

According to Laura's Paris Cooking Notebook, serve with a glass of a fruity Muscadet de Sevres et Maine, produced in the Loire area, or with a fresh Riesling from Alsace.

Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise (Scallops with Mussels and Shrimp in Cream Sauce)Tasting Notes
Through the grapevine, I had heard from other members in Whisk Wednesdays that they found this dish bland so I wasn't expecting to really like it. I was surprised and found the sauce to be rich and flavorful. I did add a splash more wine and bit of heavy cream so that I would have enough sauce for my meal. The crème fraîche was a key ingredient. Although the recipe lists heavy cream as a substitute, I would use sour cream if I didn't have crème fraîche. I'm also a sucker for anything with mushrooms, so this meal didn't disappoint at all.

This is a simple but tasty dish that will wow guests who love seafood. Plus it's economical. Serve with a crusty loaf of bread to soak up any remaining sauce on your plate.
Just for fun...
A prize of a bottle of Vegetable Seasoning from Victorian Epicure for the first person who can tell me where the following quote is from and what it means:
"Coquille St-Jacques, my ass! Death on a leaf!"
• Alaska Cooks: Information about scallops
• CordonBlues' blog: Sautéed Scallops with Tomatoes (Coquilles Saint-Jacques provencales)
• One Delicious Year: How to open scallop shells
• Video by Ms. Glaze on Cookshow: How to open scallop shells

Next Class
• Bouchées aux Crevettes (Puff Pastry Shells Filled with Shrimp and Mushrooms) pages 467-468

My Bucket List
  • Visit Dieppe, France and dine by candlelight at La Marmite Dieppoise.
  • Find a scallop shell on a beach.
  • Walk some or all of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela.

  • . . . . . . . . . .

    Running total: $1,221.53 + $8.53 = $1,230.06
    ($2.84 per serving)

    Butter used so far: 10 pounds, 7 tablespoons

    . . . . . . . . . .
    ::Whisk Wednesdays::
    We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.
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    Eliana said...

    Scallops are wonderful but it's hard to find some in restaurants that are not overcooked. Your entire dish looks great.

    angela@spinachtiger said...

    Beautiful pictures. I didn't think to incorporate those nice shells in the picture. I remember that nursery rhyme, would sing it but never know what it meant.

    Sippity Sup said...

    You are obviously a terrific cook. And even with out making this myself, I see that the creme fraiche/sour cream call is right on target. I actually do make something similar to this myself often, really ike your observations. GREG

    Elyse said...

    Wow! Shari, this dish looks fabulous. I adore scallops. I'm with you, though: I usually don't trust the restaurant to do them justice. I think I may need to try this recipe. Everything about it sounds fantastic.

    Jessica said...

    Looks great, Shari. Matt loves scallops, so using the extra I had on hand did not go to waste. I was able to score some crème fraîche and that probably made the all the difference.

    Ah - walking the Camino de Santiago has been on my "life to-do list" for years! Someday...

    Jessica said...

    Also - thanks for the explanation about "Coquilles Saint Jacques". I was unsure of the translation.

    Jeff said...

    Looks beautiful but mussels still scare me to much to cook. Was young and dumb and made myself sick from cooking them now I can't shake that fear.

    Kayte said...

    This all looks so delightful. All my favorite ingredients and wine...what's not to love? Beautiful photos...and fun to see the shops, produce, etc.

    Cathy said...

    What a fabulous seafood dish. Elegant and decadent. I love that you had an occasion to do a crème fraîche happy dance - foodies everywhere are happy dancing right along with you!

    NKP said...

    Whew! No frogs!
    This dish looks beautiful. I don't have much experience with scallops, but hubby just picked some up as a holiday weekend treat so I guess I will have to learn fast!
    Looks like you have some wonderful markets in Ottawa.

    Melissa said...

    I wish I would have left the shells in like you and Michelle did, so pretty! I was just following the recipe and burning my fingers to get the mussels out. ha!

    Anonymous said...

    You have a quintessential style that is just fabulous! I'd have never thought to do the research on Coquilles... I love reading your posts! AND...the dish looks fabulous! Great photos!

    farida said...

    This is a great seafood dish. I am always on search for good seafood recipes, and here's one I've found. Thanks for posting.

    pam said...

    When I was a teenager, this was my go-to fancy dish whenever I was taken to a nice restaurant.

    Barbara said...

    We walked the Camino in 2004. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

    I'm not a big scallop fan, I prefer mussels.