We were excited to make something from our new copy of Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead” cookbook, and we decided on Coquilles St.-Jacques. (The link will take you to slight adaptation of the recipe that was published in The New York Times.) We didn’t make this dish very much ahead of dinnertime (we made the breadcrumbs on Wednesday night and put the assembled gratin dishes in the fridge for maybe 30 minutes before they went into the oven), but we were having it on a Friday night, so we knew we’d have plenty of time to cook. Here’s how it came together:
This dish took me a little longer from start to finish that the one hour mentioned in the Times recipe; I needed about an hour and a half. I think this was partly due to never having made it before and partly due to a small mistake in making the sauce. That said, it was a huge success: Kim doesn’t really like scallops, but she thought this was the best preparations she had ever had.
As usual, I started with the prep steps, which were pretty easy: I diced some shallots, sliced some cremini mushrooms caps, minced some parsley, and grated some Gruyère that we had left over from the Brussels Sprout, Bacon, and Gruyère Frittata we made right before the New Year. We were halving this recipe, but decided to go lighter on the scallops (the full recipe calls for two pounds of scallops, but we bought a little more than half a pound) and heavier on the mushrooms. I used the larger sea scallops rather than the smaller bay scallops, so I had to quarter them, which I did right before putting them in the gratin dishes.
With the prep work done, I started in on the cooking. The first step was to make the sauce. This began just little like making the béchamel for the Lasagna with Meat Sauce that we had for our Anniversary Dinner: butter and flour, whisked together. This one came together very differently though, as it was much thinner and browned very quickly, which I think was due to the higher butter to flour ratio. I was cooking over low heat, so I was pretty sure I hadn’t burned anything, but a quick check of the photo in the cookbook reassured me that I hadn’t ruined dinner.
I did goof on the next step though. The recipe says to add the clam juice and “whisk again, until it [the sauce] is smooth and thick” and then to add the cream, curry powder, salt, and pepper and bring everything to a boil: I added all of these ingredients at the same time. No harm done, but I probably ended up cooking the sauce longer than I would have otherwise, just to make sure it was thick enough. At this point, the sauce smelled amazing – like a really good New England clam chowder. I got the pot to a boil and let it simmer, stirring ever minute or so (basically, whenever a skin started to form on the sauce), while I worked on the mushrooms.
I sautéed the shallots in butter for about 5 minutes and then added the mushrooms and cooked those for about 10 minutes. I then added the cognac and let that cook away, after which I added some salt and pepper. I’m very bad about tasting as I go, which is the best way to check for flavoring, so I sometimes under season food. I did taste this time and was a little worried because both the sauce and the mushrooms seemed very salty to me. There’s was not much I could do at this point, so I added the mushrooms to the sauce as directed. When it all came together in the gratin dish, however, the seasoning was perfect.
While the mushrooms and the sauce were cooking, I also prepared the bread crumbs by stirring them together in a bowl with parsley, Gruyère, and just enough olive oil to moisten the bread a bit.
It was now time to assemble and cook. I buttered two gratin dishes and laid half the cut-up scallops in each one. I spooned the cream and mushroom sauce over the scallops and then topped everything with the bread crumb mixture. I put the gratins on a foil lined baking pan and put the pan into a 400 degree oven. After about 20 minutes, dinner was ready.
As I mentioned above, this dish was a really hit. The breadcrumbs were nicely toasted, the cheese was melty, and the scallops were cooked perfectly. The sauce was excellent as well: it was rich and creamy without being heavy and had a nice, tangy note from the clam juice and curry powder. We paired this with the remaining bottle of the 2013 Claudio Morelli Bianchello del Metauro that our friends at Wines by the Flask recommended for our New Year’s Day Indoor Barbecue, put on some music, (The Hot Sardines, if you’re wondering; clearly, we’re pretty obsessed with food!) for a wonderful Friday night dinner.
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