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Coquilles Saint Jacques Story

Coquilles Saint Jacques is an elegant French dish usually served as a first course or appetizer, and it is especially common around the holiday dinner table.

The name, “the Shell of Saint James,” sheds light on the significance of the dish. According to Catholic tradition, the corpse of the Lord’s apostle James the Greater was retrieved from a shipwreck near large scallops and buried at Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. Variations of this story are numerous. Regardless of which story is cited, the shell has become symbolic of the beloved saint.

In France, this traditional dish combines French haute cuisine with traditional farmhouse fare: fine ingredients prepared in decadent sauces are served with piped potato purée. Serving the scallops in the actual scallop shell is a perfect example of the elegant presentation that French cooking is known for.

Although recipes can vary, coquilles Saint Jacques are delicately cooked in a white wine with butter, shallots, mushrooms, and fine herbs. They are then served on the shell (or in a ramekin if a shell is unavailable), surrounded by piped mashed potatoes whipped in butter and cream, sprinkled with Emmental cheese, broiled, and, finally, topped with tarragon leaves.

Submitted by Professor Dr. Bob Hudson, French and Italian

History of Coquilles Saint Jacques

Voiced by: Bob Hudson

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