Update 25, Part 1: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

Session 16: Working with Shellfish was a fun one for a sunny vacation week.  I began with these two Demonstrations: Moules à la Poulette (Mussels in Cream Sauce with Parsley and Spinach) and  Coquilles Saint-Jacques (Scallops in White Wine-Cream Sauce).

Both of these would make a terrific appetizer or small plate. For the mussels, right before cooking, I rinsed and removed the beard with a knife (I used Blue Bay mussels from Whole Foods and they were already pretty nicely cleaned).  For the scallops, I used 12 fresh, wild-caught sea scallops.

To begin the mussels, I reduced some heavy cream in a small pan and then set aside. I put wine and shallots in a pot and brought to a simmer, then added my mussels (about 1.5 lbs.), covered and cooked for about two minutes. Then, I uncovered, tossed them and cooked for about five minutes more, until they shells had opened and the meat pulled away from the sides.  I removed the mussels and put them in a large bowl, where once cooled, I removed from the shells.  I also removed any remaining beard remnants and also the foot.  Then, I broke the shells in half and put them in the oven to dry for a few minutes.

I measured out about 3.5 TBS of the cooking liquid from the mussel pot and set aside.  I reheated the rest to a simmer until it had reduced by 3/4, then put it through a chinois and set aside.  Before I started the mussels, I had cooked some spinach à l'anglaise and set it aside to drain. I chopped it up and then added to about 5-6 TBS of heavy cream that had been thickened over medium high heat, and stirred for a few seconds until the spinach absorbed the cream. Then I set this aside, keeping warm.

I also took the reduced heavy cream from the beginning of the recipe and put it on low heat. I whisked in the reduced cooking liquid and seasoned with fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  I kept this warm as well.  When ready to serve I put the mussels back in the 3.5 TBS of cooking liquid I had reserved and brought to a simmer.  Then, I put an equal amount of the spinach in each shell half, then topped with a mussel and napped with the warm cream sauce.  It was rich and a bit briny, with the lemon and shallots giving a slight bite.  A really nice, warm appetizer...

There was a side-note on the page that suggests serving these on a bed of sea salt or seaweed -- I was so excited to eat these that I read it after I had plated the dish, so sorry for the less than glamorous presentation. I did sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, though. These lasted about five minutes on the plate anyway-- Chris said they were a real winner and I couldn't stop eating the sauce. We had some chilled Rose with these --our own little cocktail party. Yum.

The scallops also had a cream sauce -- what is it with the French and heavy cream?  (Not that I'm complaining.) I made it by first starting with a white roux of butter and flour that I set aside. Then, I whisked together 1.5 TBS of heavy cream with two room-temperature egg yolks and set aside. A half cup plus one teaspoon more of heavy cream went into another pot and I brought to a simmer, then removed from the heat, keeping warm.  

To cook the scallops, I lightly covered the bottom of a pan with butter and then added white wine, fish stock, sliced button mushrooms and shallots and brought to a simmer.  In went the dozen scallops and I poached gently for about five minutes, until they were just set, but not overcooked.  I transferred them to a bowl and covered with a bit of the cooking liquid to keep them moist.  

I brought the rest of the cooking liquid to a boil and then down to a simmer and whisked in a bit of my roux to thicken.  Then, in went the warm cream and it simmered for about 10 minutes, with me whisking every few seconds.  In went the liquid the scallops were soaking in, and I whisked a bit more -- with the result being a slightly thin sauce.  Finally, the egg yolk/cream mixture went in along with a bit of white pepper, salt and lemon juice.  The sauce thickened a bit and I folded the scallops into it.

The book suggests serving in cleaned scallop shells, but I used all those lovely mussel shells for my own presentation.  Before I plated though, the scallops went into the broiler to glaze and brown a bit. 

They were sweet and creamy with a bit of a tang from the wine and lemon -- a really nice dish for a summer lunch.  We drank some sparkling wine with it and called it a success.  Yum, yum.

Almost done with Session 16! I still have Sauce Américaine/Armoricaine, which involves a whole lobster and two versions of the spiced, aromatic liquid that is used primarily for poaching seafood: Court-Bouillon and Court-Boillon Vinaigré (Vinegar Court-Bouillon).

Stay tuned!

Scallops on Foodista