With the scallop, on the way to gluttony

Since the dawn of time, the scallop shell has been associated with Venus, goddess of love and fertility. Seashells are also carved on sarcophagi to accompany the bodies to the resurrection. It is also the symbol of devotion to an apostle whose remains are found in Compostela.

→ RECIPE Mackerel, the dandy of the seas revisited by Thierry Marx

Son of Zebedee, a fisherman like him on Lake Tiberias, Jacques became one of the Twelve Apostles who devoted himself to the evangelization of the West, especially Spain. He returned to Jerusalem in 44 and was condemned to death by Herod. His relatives deposit his body on a small boat. The latter, protected by the angels, plies the waves, crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and arrives in Galicia.

The wandering body frightens and does not get a burial, it is placed on a huge stone and turns into a sarcophagus. Nine centuries later, shepherds were drawn to a particularly bright star and discovered the sarcophagus in a field. A church is built on this “field of the star”, in Latin stellae campus… Compostela. The pilgrimage becomes, with those of Jerusalem and Rome, one of the most important in Christendom.

The pilgrims got into the habit of returning from this trip with the shells of these mollusks collected on the Atlantic shores, they hang them on their coat, their bag or their hat, as the proof and the memory of their pilgrimage. This is how the scallop shell became the symbol of the road to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.

The beautiful Seine bay shells

In cooking, the scallop is a very popular mollusk for its delicate flesh. Those from Normandy fished in the Bay of Seine, very tasty, won the Red label in 2002. This guarantee of quality ensures that they are coral, selected and cleaned on board and also makes it possible to verify traceability. They are offered whole or shelled. They are very popular with amateurs and do not lose water during cooking. In addition, you can use the coral in a sauce and the barbs, carefully rinsed, which make an excellent base for seafood rillettes.

Beware of scallops from further afield which can be “swollen” with water and will therefore have neither the same texture nor the same flavor. If you buy them frozen, check especially that it is the variety Pecten maximus. Prefer them alive, in shells and in season (from October to April) to enjoy them fully. In addition, nutritionists recommend them to maintain the various functions of the body including nervous balance, the thyroid, and to fight against winter infections.

My favorite recipe is a skewer of scallops, pricked on a vanilla bean which was used to flavor a sauce made with fresh ginger, shallots and coconut milk.

In my library

Two essential titles: Saint-Jacques, ten ways to prepare it (Éd. De l’Épure, € 9), by Gwenaël Le Houerou, who offers a passion fruit carpaccio or a leek puff pastry; in the iconic collection “Masters of gastronomy”, the book Joel Robuchon’s work shop presents great classics with step by step gestures (Hachette Éditions, prices vary according to used book sites).


► The recipe

Scallops with orange butter

2 scallops from Normandy label Rouge
60 g half-salted Normandy butter
The zest of an organic orange
12 hazelnuts
4 bay leaves
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper

To cut the scallops, choose a knife with a short, hard blade. Place the shell concave side in the palm of your hand and insert the blade inside. Slide the blade along the lid (the flat side) to sever the muscle and open the lid.

With a spoon, remove the barbs, the coral (you can incorporate it in soups or sauces) and the black pouch without detaching the scallop. Rinse the nuts quickly under a stream of cold water and let them drain upside down on a cloth. If this seems complicated to you, ask your fishmonger to prepare them for you.

Finely chop the orange zest. Add it to the softened butter. Mix with a round-tipped knife, form a sausage 3 cm in diameter, wrap it in cling film and keep the orange butter in the fridge. Preheat the oven to the grill position.

When sitting at the table, season the scallops with fleur de sel and pepper. Cut thin strips of orange butter, place them on the scallops, sprinkle with hazelnuts cut in half and bay leaves. Bake them for 3 to 4 minutes and enjoy immediately.


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