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Ina Garten’s Coquilles St. Jacques from "Make It Ahead"

Ina Garten’s Coquilles St. Jacques from "Make It Ahead"

I am a huge fan of Ina Garten or as a friend of mine once said “What’s not to like?”  Ina makes great food accessible to even the most amateur cook.  This may be because Ina herself is a completely self-taught home cook.  She knows her audience.   Her recipes are timeless and her selection of them inspired and inspiring.  Her latest cookbook “Make it Ahead” (Clarkson Potter 2014) is her ninth.  The book is exactly what the title hints at.  All of its recipes can be put together hours before dinner guests arrive to relieve the host or hostess of having to do anything more than put food in the oven and take it out.  Ina points out that there are plenty of foods that benefit from ‘aging’ in the refrigerator so that the flavors mix and meld. The recipe I want to share with you today is a prime example.   It’s Ina’s take on this classic of French cooking: Scallops in a creamy sauce with just a hit of curry are cooked under a crust of bread crumbs and cheese.  Served in individual gratin dishes with a simple green salad and a glass of white wine make a perfect meal for company or just someone you love.   And as much as I love Ina, I love a good food story and this is one of the best.

All roads lead to Santiago de Compostela 
         Coquille is the French word for shell. St. Jacques is French for St. James.  Legend has it that this disciple of Christ found his way to Spain where he preached the Gospel.  After some time there, St. James decided to return to the Holy Land where he was soon beheaded.  His disciples managed to get his body to Jaffa where they found a stone ship, which miraculously brought them back to Galicia.  After much struggle with a pagan queen, these disciples were permitted to bury St. James in the town of Santiago de Compostela. The place became famous for pilgrimages that are still undertaken by over 100,000 people every year.  There were five designated routes in France alone for the pilgrims to take including one that went through what is now the town of Coquille in southwestern France.  In its parish church, pilgrims were given a Scallop Shell, a Coquille St. Jacques, symbolic of their journey over the Way of St. James. According to Larousse, however,  Coquille St. Jacques is used to mean scallops generically; scallops are plentiful in the Bay of Biscay, the closest body of salt water to Santiago de Compostela. So Coquille could lose its bragging rights.  Larousse also points out that the dish has endless variations based on whatever sauce is used with them.  Here is Ina’s easy recipe.
Recipe for Ina Garten’s Coquilles St. Jacques
Serves 8. Takes one hour total to make.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups seafood stock, clam juice or low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon curry powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large shallots, peeled and diced, approximately 1 cup
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems discarded, sliced
¼ cup brandy or Cognac
1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs (approximately 6 slices white bread, crusts removed, finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor)
¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
5 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds bay scallops, or quartered sea scallops, abductor muscles removed
1. Set a saucepan over medium heat, and melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in it. When it foams, add the flour, and cook for approximately 4 minutes, whisking constantly. Add the stock, and whisk again, until it is smooth and thick. Add the cream, curry powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce just to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
2. Put 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. When it melts and foams, add the shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are clear and tender, approximately 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushroom caps, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until they have released their liquid and are just starting to brown. Add the brandy or Cognac, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the alcohol has mostly evaporated. Add a teaspoon of salt to the mixture and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and stir again to combine. Add mushroom mixture to the cream sauce, and set aside.
3. Combine the bread crumbs, parsley and Gruyère in a large bowl, stir to combine, then moisten the mixture with the olive oil, stirring again to combine.
4. Use last tablespoon of butter to grease 6 1 1/2-cup gratin dishes. Divide the scallops evenly among them and top with equal amounts of the cream and mushroom sauce. Top each gratin dish with a handful or two of the bread-crumb mixture. Place dishes on a sheet tray, cover gently with foil or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to a day.

5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400. Remove cover from sheet tray, and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and bubbling and the scallops are cooked through.

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