Home > Uncategorized > Coquilles Saint-Jacques with Champagne (As fancy as a French admiral!)

Coquilles Saint-Jacques with Champagne (As fancy as a French admiral!)

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Dear Chef;

Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends, right? Here’s a recipe that involves cream, butter, and champagne – it’s more or less fucking impossible to go wrong. You could just slop that in a bucket and hand it someone with a spoon, and with a hearty “Bon appetit!” they’d tuck right in.

Apparently Jacques was the patron saint of rich food.

You do recommend that this tastes best with good champagne, but it’s just not in the budget. I compromised and went with something better than your basic $10 bottle, but still not so much as to break the bank. Is that sad, though? Is that just middle-class aspirations to a kind of luxury that doesn’t fit in not just my budget, but my whole cultural world? Sometimes I feel like a poseur social climber like something from “Vanity Fair” with all this fancy food. But then I actually eat it, and feel better. I mean a little. I still feel a little bit like I’m crying inside. While eating. But then other times I just feel like I’m learning a skill, and even every night isn’t going to be coquile saint-jacques, at least I’ve learned to make a decent pan sauce, and how properly treat the entree.

And this one really is all about the scallops. The sauce is delicious, but you can sop it up with some bread and enjoy it. To really make it something special, the scallops have to be right. I shopped around for some good ones, and got my meez ready. Assistant Chef Bourdain was on hand to help, too.

The dog loves champagne. What can I say? He's fancy.

I did get proper sea scallops, and not bay scallops. We’re lucky to have easy access to pretty good fish markets around here, so they weren’t hard to find. I’m probably going to have to substitute these for the skate wings in “skate wing grenoblaise” though, because skates are on the list of fish that are in danger from over-fishing. I checked around and sea scallops are about the closest thing. I’ll try not to feel like I’ve totally failed, but fuck man, I found every kind of gut, stomach, gizzard and anus imaginable for the tripes Les Halles. I think I earned a mulligan.

They don't look like skate wings...


The sauce is pretty easy, though “fish fumet” is easier talked about than actually acquired. I didn’t have time to have another Stock Day just for fish stock, so I had to make do with what I could find. Since our dinner guest was a vegetarian (but the kind that eats fish) I had to use vegetable stock. Next time I go fishing, or end up with some heads and bones and whatnot, I’ll make proper fish stock. This is a straightforward sauce, though this one was strained. But anyway, I softened the shallots with some butter, then added veggie stock (that should have been fish stock…) and brought it to a boil. After reducing it by half, I added the cream and brought that up to a boil. It simmered for a while and I strained it and set it aside.



As per your instructions, at this point I broke into the champagne. I’ve noticed a lot of your recipes involve starting the drinking early. I’m not an able enough drinker that this is a great idea, but I’m not churl enough to suggest that it’s a bad idea, ok? Not only have my knife skills improved – but my *drunken* knife skills have improved, too!

Into a hot pan go the scallops, after they’ve been patted dry and seasoned.

Does "scallop" rhyme with "gallop", or "wallop"?

After that, it’s all down hill. Set the scallops aside, finish the pan sauce. Voila. I let the scallops sit a little too long though, I’m afraid. By the time I’d sauteed some asparagus and got them onto the table, they were sort of lukewarm. Still really delicious. But what do I know? I was god-damn hammered at this point – as drunk as a French Admiral and feelin’ about as fancy! So fancy I dressed the plate up so it looked all swellsville, too. Though my attempt to drizzle a little sauce over the scallops turned into something more like a cream-sauce splodge. I guess they teach you that stuff in chef school, but me? I am just an ape, imitating more sophisticated apes. With cream sauce.

You can see them gradually cooling.

Is anything more frightening than a drunken ape with cream sauce, chef?


The end result was pretty fancy! (Not quite as fancy as a French Admiral though.)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. abigail
    September 18, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    i am thinking about making this tonight. i have the recipe from bourdain’s book, but i plan on using half and half instead of cream, do you think that will screw it up? i usually drink 1% milk, so buying half and half will be a treat for my coffee during the week, but heavy cream sounded a bit much for me.

    • September 18, 2011 at 12:26 PM

      Personally, I stuck to the recipe from the book for the first time, just so I’d taste it as intended. Afterwards I’ve experimented – but I have found that heavy cream does make for really good sauces. You are thinning it a bit with wine or stock, after all, so it’s not like you’re just drinking a cup of cream. That said, lots of people substitute half-and-half. So I don’t know! Whatever your preference tells you!

  2. abigail
    September 18, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    i made it tonight with the heavy cream and vegetable stock like you did. i used 1/2 an onion instead of shallot and used chives from my garden. the sauce came out so good, i was sucking it up with some garlic bread i made. i am glad i used heavy cream. I used Dr. Frank Celebre’ sparkling white wine from the finger lakes for the champagne which is very yummy, costs about $20 a bottle. i drank some of it while cooking since it is a “chef’s prerogative” to do that as Anthony says. Enjoying your blog, since I have the book too!

  3. September 18, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    As I remember, I ended up filthy drankeded the night of any cooking with champagne. Tonight I’m making pork roast in a beer braise, with home-brewed beer. I do find shallots to be a different kind of a thing than onions, and leeks too – funny how Americans just lump it all under “onion” and call it a day.

    You can take that cream sauce you just made (without the champagne, if the budget doesn’t permit) and use it for just about any delicately flavored fish or shellfish – it’s quite suberb.

  4. abigail
    September 19, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    I didn’t use French Champagne, but I used a sparkling white wine from the finger lakes of NY which is delicious, you should try it sometime, it is really good, i had it last year for new years, i enjoy it so much. I figured onions would be a good substitute since I didn’t have any shallots. I was thinking of adding some chopped garlic, but resisted. are you from France, not sure about your background and am curious.

  5. September 19, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    Oh no, I’m originally from Philadelphia. I’m as American as apple pie. I knew precious little about French cuisine, or French much-of-anything before I started this whole project. Mostly I just wanted to learn to cook, and I liked Bourdain’s books and tv show.

  6. abigail
    September 20, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    your doing a good job with your blog. at first i thought you were from France. I plan on trying making Gratin Dauphinois next in the cookbook.

  7. September 20, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    Thanks! Gratin Dolphinnoise is easy to make, and it’s a killer recipe. Let me recommend jazzing it up with a little white truffle oil if you have it. It adds a really nice earthy touch to it, and smells fantastic. I see your conversion to the heavy cream side of the force is complete! 🙂

  8. abigail
    September 20, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    i have do something with the heavy cream i have left in my frig:)

  9. abigail
    September 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    One more thing, as Columbo would say. I used the leftover scallop champagne sauce with Salmon today and it was delicious. good suggestion to use it with other fishes. Another not sure why my happy face didn’t work out before:(

  10. September 20, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    well, cream sauce and ham doesn’t sound very good…

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