Scallops Mornay or as the French call them Coquilles St Jacques is the sort of dish that just screams special occasion. It’s rich, decadent and totally delicious. I made this as an appetiser for our Good Friday dinner but it was so good that I’m just waiting for another occasion to make it again. Actually I shouldn’t say “I made” as this was prepared by my husband. He doesn’t cook often but when he does he’s meticulous about detail so this recipe was right up his alley.
Seafood pairs so well with mornay sauce, the other classic being lobster mornay, but scallops are a little more affordable and easier to serve as a first course. Typically mornay dishes are made using a roux – the usual butter, flour, milk combo. But I prefer this version which is made using a reduced cream sauce which gives the finished dish a lovely silky texture. Buy the best scallops you can and if you can purchase them on the shell then even better. If you can’t, then simply use small shallow gratin dishes to prepare and serve the scallops on. If you look online you can find shell shape gratin dishes which look great. Our local fish monger had scallops on the shell so I was able to use those after rinsing and cleaning them. You’ll need to buy some extra loose scallops to add to each shell. About 3-4 good size scallops per shell works well and one shell per person is enough as an appetiser – they’re pretty rich!
Ingredients – Serves 4 as a first course Adapted from Food Wishes Blog
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup diced shallots
250g button mushrooms, finely sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
12-16 scallops depending on size
½ cup cream
1 egg yolk
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon, plus some extra whole leaves for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest
⅓ cup grated Gruyère cheese
Heat the butter in a skillet or fry pan and cook the shallots over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and season with a little salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium high and sauté until the mushrooms are golden, you don’t want them to be heavily caramelised though. Add the wine and stir to release any sediment from the bottom of the pan. As soon as the wine comes to a simmer add the scallops and poach them in the wine for 1-2 minutes per side, depending on how large your scallops are. They will be finished off under a hot grill so it’s better for them to be slightly undercooked at this stage rather than overcooked.
Remove the scallops and set aside. Turn off the heat and strain the mixture reserving the mushrooms and shallots. Pour the strained liquid back into the pan along with any juices that have accumulated from the scallops. Turn the heat to high and add the cream. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced by half and thickened. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for a one minute and then, whisking quickly, add the egg yolk and continue whisking until it’s incorporated into the sauce. Add the cayenne, minced tarragon and lemon zest and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for salt.
To assemble place the cleaned scallop shells or gratin dishes on a baking sheet. It’s a good idea to place some crinkled foil on the baking sheet which will stop the shells moving around. Divide the mushroom and shallot mixture between the shells and spread them out to cover the base. Place 3-4 scallops per shell on top of the mushroom mixture . Spoon the cream sauce generously over the top making sure to cover all the surface area of the scallops. Add a sprinkling of Gruyère cheese and place under a hot grill (not too close) for about 6-8 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Garnish with a sprig or two of tarragon leaves and serve immediately.