This Recipe includes
Spices, herbs and flavoring ingredients:
|Garlic powder or flakes|
|Salt and pepper|
Why we love it
A savory yet delicate seafood starter? The Coquilles St Jacques en pesto is perfect. Known as scallops in English, (but it just sounds better in French, doesn’t it?) they will add a touch of refinement to any meal.
A recipe that is easy to prepare, healthy and delicious with a tangy sauce on top, you might even get the kids to try it. So let’s get to it, shall we? Allons-y!
The Christmas Tradition
The first time I had it was at Christmas with the French side of my family, so I tend to always associate it with Christmas. But there is no need for any such restrictions, in France you can buy it all year round at Picards’ (a frozen grocery food chain)!
Fresh scallops, however, are more of a winter tradition. In France, the fishing season for scallops starts in October, so they are peak freshness in December, right on time for Christmas. The tradition goes back to the pilgrims of Saint Jacques de Compostela (hence the name) who crisscrossed France and Spain with the shells around their neck.
While we don’t focus much on seafood at Christmas in North America (hello turducken!), in France there is usually at least one seafood item on the Christmas meal menu, such as scallops, smoked salmon or lobster.
Different ways of cooking
There are many ways to prepare the scallops: raw, marinated, fried or grilled. But one of my favorites has to be Coquilles St Jacques with pesto sauce (or the French pistou), which has a bit of a kick to it and has the added benefit of being gluten-free, lactose-free and alcohol-free.
My other favorite is Coquilles St Jacques en gratin, where it is cooked with a creamy sauce and breadcrumbs. That one is obviously not gluten-free, since it has breadcrumbs. And if you like, here is a scallops and pasta in pesto sauce recipe to serve as a main dish.
Now I’ve seen a lot of recipes where mushrooms, potatoes or leeks have been cooked into it as well. You can, of course, it would make the starter heartier, but I’m keeping with the traditional French recipe which was meant to emphasize the freshness and delicateness of the scallops. Too many ingredients and the scallops will drown!
☞ Similar Recipe: Sautéed calamari with garlic and parsley
What to serve with it?
What drinks to serve it?
Paired with some fine champagne, you will certainly raise a few “la di das!” at a sophisticated dinner party.
If you don’t care for champagne, try a white wine which has been chilled in the fridge. A Sancerre from France’s Val de Loire, Chablis from Bourgogne, or Reisling from Alsace will be excellent. You can read more about French wines here.
Coquilles St. Jacques en pesto Recipe
- 4 Coquilles Saint Jacques i.e. 4 scallops drained and patted dry in open shell
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 clove of crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/2 of a grated shallot
- Add two sprigs of basil or 5-6 leaves
- Few sprigs of fresh parsley 6-7 leaves
- Soften the butter and mix in the grated shallots in a saucepan at a low temperature.
- Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, basil and 4 leaves of parsley in the blender.
- Bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes while mixing.
- Place the scallops on the shells and add prepared sauce on top.
- Sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top of the sauce and the scallops.
- Bake the scallops in the oven for 15 minutes at 200C (400F°) until it turns golden brown. (If scallops were frozen, cook for an additional 10 minutes.)
- Serve while warm.
So whether you are making some scallops for Christmas, or just because, don’t hesitate to dive in!