My mother, although multi-talented, had an aversion to the kitchen and has often said that I learned to cook at an early age “out of self-defense.” When she made chicken à l'orange by smearing a chicken with powdered Tang, I quickly developed a necessary passion for creating tasty things to eat. Somewhere in the family photograph album is a picture of me at the stove, age ten, happily stirring marinara sauce.

I developed a lifelong fascination with food; good food. There was even a foray of working as a chef’s assistant at a French restaurant during my mid twenties, just for fun. I had always loved watching Julia Child and knew that Mastering the Art of French Cooking was to be revered. It wasn’t until I read her biography (long before the Julie & Julia movie) that I really became fascinated with her work. From that book, I decided to prepare her recipe for mayonnaise.

Upon tasting it, I wept. . . .

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Coquilles St. Jacques Provençal - Scallops Gratinéed with Wine, Garlic, and Herbs

I don't know who St. Jacques is or what he had to do with Julia Child, but I'm really happy he did what he did as far as her scallops are concerned.

A while back, I made Julia's Coquilles St. Jacques à la Parisienne which are scallops simmered in white wine and mushrooms from which the scallops are removed, the broth is then reduced and very gradually thickened with butter & flour, cream, and egg yolks; thus, à la Parisienne. It's complex and you end up with at least three pots boiling away, whisking this one into that one with precise timing and techniques. It's tons of fun. 

The result tasted pasty -- no doubt because the 4 Tbs of flour I used had been sitting on the shelf above my stove for some months and, I think, may have gone a bit rancid. (See? I hadn't tasted the flour before I began whisking it in so expertly.)

I served it with Julia's green beans à la Provençal -- fresh green beans sautéed with onions, tomatoes, garlic, bay, and thyme. Yes, I served à la Parisienne and à la Provençal together.

And in mis-matched service, to boot.  (I hate for food to 'touch')
True, it "didn't work." It tasted pasty to me.
Will I serve this again? I doubt it.
Did any guests flee in terror? Hardly.

Last weekend: Scallops St. Jacques Provençal; Scallops that had been floured and sautéed in butter to which white wine, garlic, butter-sautéed shallots, bay, and thyme were added. The moment that was added, it thickened up without the use of cream or egg yolks. It was then covered with a tiny layer of Swiss cheese, more butter, and broiled.

I served this with steamed asparagus swathed with the incredible beurre blanc . (The photo of the asparagus alongside the scallops was really dreadful -- Lighting, splatters, we were hungry.)

 Along with pan-roasted potatoes and a spinach-tomato salad.

Here is Miss Healthypants, admiring her favorite food item. 

Oh, and I also stopped by a little wine shop on the way home. The ever-so-helpful wine person asked what I was serving and suggested a 2007 Sèvre et Maine muscadet. When she mentioned that it was from the Loire Valley, I suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, that's perfect! I'm serving asparagus with a beurre blanc which was invented in the Loire Valley - - you know. . . "

. . . And, there you have just about THE snootiest response to an attractive wine merchant ever.

Anyway, this wine was just about the most perfect thing to go with this meal; It was light but not crisp, nowhere near tart, dry nor sweet, but really had a "wow" factor when it came to subtle appeal -- the absolute perfect wine for scallops.

It's not like I'm a true connoisseur of wines. Hardly. I was raised Southern Baptist, lived most of my adult life as a Roman Catholic, and only became an Episcopalian a couple of years ago. 

If I ever had to prepare "the perfect meal", Coquilles Provençal St. Jacques would be the fish course and asparagus with beurre blanc would be the main players.

But serve these two items together with crusty French bread, a light salad, that muscadet wine, and that would be one of your most perfect (and easiest) meals.
Yes, I mean Ever!
I'm serious . . . 

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