Coquille St Jacques
Whenever I travel to my home in Brittany, one of my favorite things to do is make a meal using the fresh, wonderful seafood native to the area. Planning the menu always demands a visit to Monsieur Moulinet and his fabulous poissonnerie just below the medieval Cathedral in our little village of Tréquier. His closet-sized shop is brimming with the freshest, most beautiful fish and crustaceans that I have ever seen (and lots that I have NEVER seen)! Bins of ice cradle skate, sea bass, every kind of crab and shrimp, urchins, monkfish and of course all size and type of oyster! At lunch a tiny window opens onto the street selling steaming little crayfish ready to eat right away. There is always a seasonal treasure that he will recommend too.
On my last visit in April, he urged me to buy the fabulous local Coquille Saint Jacques, scallops. Their season runs from November to April and we were nearing the end. He told me about the Fęte de la Coquille Saint Jacques in a small town on the coast between Paimpol and Saint Brieuc called Saint-Quay-Portrieux, held this year on April 29th. Alas, I would be gone by then. The drive there is fabulous, with beautiful cliffs falling down into the bays, little fishing and sailing boats floating in the clear, cold channel waters, and one of my favorite hikes called the “Watchmen’s Hike,” which is the old path for the coastal guardians of the English Channel. Pirates, kings and thieves had to be prevented from entering La Belle France!
Today though, I would pick up my scallops, which Monsieur Moulinet will generously shuck for me, and make a cozy dinner for friends. Now that I have the scallops as the focus of my menu, I have to buy my wines, cheeses, fruit, bread, dessert and vegetables. But those are all different stories of their own!
What I was reading on my last trip:
Suite Français by Irène Némirovsky.
This is one of the best books I have ever read about the Nazi’s entry into Paris and the occupation. It is also a fascinating study of an author who led an extraordinary life and was killed by the Nazis. Her work was saved by her young daughters who hid and eventually escaped.
Melt the 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil together in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the foam subsides. Add the onion, shallot and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until soft.
Lightly dust the scallops in flour and add to the hot pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly brown.
Turn the scallops
Add the wine and water and cook over medium heat until reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes.
Swirl in the cold butter and the herbs and shake the pan gently until the butter is melted and the sauce is glazy. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Spoon onto a platter and garnish with the toasty bread crumbs.
Serve with French bread and a green salad.