Coquilles Saint-Jacques on a beach

Provençale Scallops

Did you ever wonder why scallop shells are iconic throughout European history, topping classical arches and doorways, marking pilgrim paths and even conveying a Greek goddess in Sandro Botticelli’s beloved Birth of Venus Renaissance masterpiece?

This beloved bivalve is unique in abilities and flavor, because unlike immobile clams, oysters and mussels, sea scallops glide across the ocean floor, using a large abductor muscle for swimming and eluding predators. Even smaller bay scallops use this same muscle, slamming hinged shells together and forcing water out one side while propelling it in the opposite direction. This fleshy swimming muscle is rich in sugars and free amino acids, creating distinctly rich and tender meat prized in international seafood cuisine.

Seared in olive oil and paired with sautéed garlic, peppers, shallots and capers, scallops are light and elegant centerpieces in Italian meals paired with Pinot Grigio or effervescent prosecco. During winter months, scallops are a fiery comfort food when prepared fra diavolo (spicy) with red peppers and tomatoes topped on linguine—especially when flambéed in French cognac and mixed with dry Sauvignon Blanc. In Sicily scallops are blended with prawns and mushrooms in a creamy Arborio rice risotto, matched to Sicilian medium-dry white Catarratto wine, or more familiar Chardonnay.

France village fountain in Provence
France village fountain in Provence, France

Coquilles St. Jacques is a classic French dish from the Provence region that can be a main dish for two or a savory side dish for multiple guests. Scallops, lemon and garlic perfectly combine to partner with dry French Sauvignon Blanc, but consider going native with a tart pink rosé from the Riviera’s Provence region. Definitely a meal to enjoy while on the 7-day Yachtsman’s Harbors of the Rivieras voyage that takes you along the French coastline between Barcelona and Rome. But in the meantime give yourself a sneak peek with the below recipe and pair with your favorite French wine.

Closeup of perfectly seared fresh sea scallops in butter and cracked pepper, sizzling on a cast iron skillet
Fresh sea scallops sizzling in butter, salt and cracked pepper

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dry bread crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

  • 6 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup dry white wine

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

  • 5 tablespoons butter (divided 2 tablespoons, 3 tablespoons)

  • 16 sea scallops

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper

  • 4 ounces button mushrooms, diced

  • ½ cup chopped onion

Directions: 

  1. In small mixing bowl, toss the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter; mix thoroughly and set aside.

  2. In another small bowl, combine the cheese, mayonnaise, white wine and parsley; mix thoroughly and set aside.

  3. In a skillet over medium heat, season the scallops with salt and pepper and then sauté in 2 tablespoons of butter until opaque. Preheat broiler to 400 degrees.

  4. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to cook the mushrooms and onions. Add cheese mixture and return the scallops to the skillet. Cook until heated through and the cheese is melted. Spoon the mixture into individual ramekins or the scallop shells if available. Top with bread crumb mixture.

  5. Broil in a preheated broiler 6 inches from the heat for 5 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

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