It's the decadent French seafood dish perfect for your holiday celebrations, dinner parties and date-nights-at-home. Grab a baguette and beret and let's get this Parisian Party started!
If you're a fan of French cuisine or have ever dined at a traditional French restaurant, you are likely familiar with the creamy baked scallop dish known as Coquille St. Jacques (pronounced "koh-keel-sahn-zhahk").
This sophisticated casserole is a homage to French culinary traditions. At its heart, Coquille St. Jacques is a celebration of the sea, featuring plump and tender scallops as the star ingredient. But it's the velvety sauce that elevates this dish to a gourmet level.
Typically made with a decadent blend of cream, cognac or white wine, and herbs like shallots and parsley, the sauce envelops the scallops, infusing them with rich, savory flavors. Finally, Coquille St. Jacques is topped with a gratin of breadcrumbs and cheese, which adds a delightful crunch and an extra layer of indulgence to each bite.
My recipe is based on the Queen, Ina Garten's classic interpretation of the French dish. I've made a few adjustments to suit my tastes and my European pantry, and scaled the recipe down to serve 4, instead of 6.
Before we take our stroll down the streets of Paris, let's talk about buying scallops!
Tips for buying scallops:
- Fresh vs. Frozen: Fresh scallops are highly perishable and are best consumed the same day they're purchased. If you can't find fresh scallops, high-quality frozen scallops can be a good alternative. Look for frozen scallops that are labeled as "dry-packed" or "chemical-free."
- Check for Odor: Fresh scallops should have a clean, briny smell, reminiscent of the ocean. Avoid scallops that have a strong fishy or ammonia-like odor, as this indicates a lack of freshness.
- Appearance: The color of scallops can vary, but they should generally be a creamy white or pale pink color. Avoid scallops that appear dull, discolored, or have a slimy texture.
- Packaging: If buying frozen scallops, check the packaging for any signs of damage or freezer burn. Ensure the package is sealed tightly to prevent freezer burn.
- Sustainability: Look for scallops that are sustainably sourced, as this helps protect the environment and ensures a long-term supply of this seafood delicacy. Various organizations and certifications, such as MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), can indicate sustainable seafood options.
Ingredients for Casserole:
Sea scallops: large sea scallops are my preference for this scallops recipe, but if you have access to sweet bay scallops (Ina's preference), that's a great option, as well! Dry sea scallops (or bay scallops) well with paper towels before cooking. If your scallops release too much water when cooking, your sauce will become thin and runny.
Mushrooms: meaty cremini (baby bella) mushrooms are my preference. Substitute regular button mushrooms, if you prefer. Clean your shrooms well with a dry paper towel before slicing.
Seasonings: we use salt, pepper and just a touch of curry powder to our casserole. The finished dish doesn't taste like curry at all. It offers a complexity and warmth you can't quite place. Keep in mind that this recipe involves multiple steps where we are seasoning as we go. Be sure to taste each step to ensure the finished dish is seasoned to your liking.
Shallot: finely diced shallots add a mildly oniony flavor to our seafood casserole. Substitute leeks or yellow onion, if needed.
Butter: salted or unsalted butter work well in this recipe. Keep in mind you have multiple steps and layers of this recipe that require seasoning, so whatever kind of butter you use, be willing to taste and adjust seasoning as you go so your finished casserole is properly seasoned.
Flour: a few tablespoons of all purpose flour help create the roux to thicken our sauce.
Stock: seafood stock is my go-to in this recipe. Clam juice is a great substitute. If you're cooking for non-pescatarians, chicken stock is a lighter but still flavorful option. Vegetable stock is another good alternative.
Cream: heavy cream adds the perfect richness and viscosity to our decadent sauce. If using half and half or milk, you may want to increase the flour in your roux to balance the thickness of the sauce.
Sherry: Ina's recipe calls for cognac, but dry sherry is my preference here. Brandy or white wine are two other great options to add depth and flavor to your scallop casserole dish.
Crispy topping: gruyère, fresh bread crumbs, olive oil and fresh parsley make up our perfect crunchy topping. Substitute parmesan cheese for gruyère, if needed. Substitute Panko breadcrumbs for fresh bread crumbs, if you need an option. A buttery cracker like Ritz crackers are another option, although this will move the casserole into more of a New England style with a sweeter flavor.
Lemon: this decadent scallop dish is gets its balance from a squeeze of lemon juice when serving and a flurry of lemon zest while still warm.
Full ingredient list and measurements included in printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions:
Preheat oven to 400℉ and place four individual baking dishes on a sheet pan. Set aside.
- Begin making the French scallops by building the savory sauce. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add flour and cook the roux for 2 minutes, whisking.
2. Next, add seafood stock and whisk until smooth and thickened.
3. Add in the cream, curry powder, 1 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Now add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes, until fragrant and softened. Add sliced mushrooms to the shallots and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Next, pour in the dry sherry (cognac or white wine) and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and set aside.
6. Next, make the crispy topping. Combine homemade bread crumbs (or panko), fresh diced parsley, Gruyere cheese, and olive oil in a medium bowl. Toss together to moisten the crumbs. Set aside.
7. Add sherry cream sauce into the pan with shallots and mushrooms and stir to combine as it's heating. Taste and adjust seasoning. The sauce should be a little too salty at this point. Next, place scallops in the mushroom cream sauce. Stir gently, coating the seafood in the sauce.
8. Finally, divide scallops and sauce among the casserole dishes.
9. Top each baking dish with the bread crumb mixture and bake for 20 minutes, until the scallops are cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.
10 .Top with lemon zest and diced parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions for Coquille St. Jacques:
Yes, you can use frozen scallops, but make sure to thaw them thoroughly before cooking. Pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Fresh, dry-packed scallops, or frozen and properly thawed, are the best choice for this dish. Avoid using wet scallops or treated scallops, as they can release excess moisture when cooked. If you have questions, go to the seafood counter at your grocery store and let them know what you're looking for. Most stores like Whole Foods will have a fishmonger with good expertise who can help.
Yes! If you have food safe scallop shells, you can bake the casserole portioned into individual shells. It's a lovely way to serve the dish, and one of the best appetizer recipes for a special occasion. If you don't have scallop shells, you can use small ovenproof dishes or ramekins to bake Coquille St. Jacques, like I did in this recipe.
You can prepare the components ahead of time and assemble just before baking. I recommend that you keep the sauce, scallops, and breadcrumb mixture separate until you're ready to bake.
This French scallop dish is rich and creamy, so it pairs well with lighter side dishes like a Tossed Salad or Green Beans with Almonds to balance the flavors. Consider serving it with rice, pasta, or even mashed potatoes to soak up the creamy sauce. And, of course, a crusty baguette is always the perfect side dish.
Store leftover scallop casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, bake gently in 350℉ oven for about 10 minutes, until just heated through.