There’s this dish passed around among Acadian families called Coquilles St Jacques, a French dish involving scallops and white wine sauce covered with Gruyere and baked in clamshell dishes. This isn’t how I was shown how to make the dish at all, though, and it seems every family does it a little (or a lot) differently. This is no Alton Brown recipe; it’s not an exact science, more of an art. Through a large number of modifications, I’ve come to a rough outline of a recipe, though my way of making this recipe is incredibly flexible and forgiving, so you could easily modify it to your tastes. I’m calling it Coquilles Maudit Jason, with “maudit” meaning “damned”, seeing as how I’m not in any way a saint.
I’ve included a number of options, including a choice between white wine sauce and savory gravy. If you try this, let me know how you’ve modified it in the comments below.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika (half sharp?)
Black pepper to taste (1/8 tsp)
(optional) 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
at least 2 lbs seafood – scallops, shrimp, haddock, salmon, lobster/crab
4 tablespoons butter (can use shortening or leftover bacon grease)
(optional) White wine sauce:
[ 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup white wine
1 cup bread crumbs ]
[ 6 oz canned mushroom steak sauce or lobster sauce
1 extra tbsp cognac
1/2 cup milk ]
1 bundle scallions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs potatoes
2 tbsp Cognac
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 lb grated Gruyere cheese
Six or more oven-safe clamshell dishes (or other oven-safe bowls)
Cube, boil and mash potatoes to taste. Season as you like. Recommend sour cream, sea salt and parsley flakes, and leaving the skins on. This can be done in advance.
Mix the flour, salt, paprika, (cayenne), pepper together in a large bowl. Chop all the seafood to, at largest, 1cm cubes. Dredge it all well in the flour mixture. Sift out extra flour mixture for later use in roux if necessary.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sweat garlic and shallots, remove and set aside, leaving butter. Add the seafood mixture and sauté, browning the flour. With this much seafood, you may have to do this in batches and add butter as necessary — don’t overload your pan. Set aside in a covered dish to keep warm; mix in garlic and shallots evenly.
White wine sauce:
(Optional sauce: Sauté mushrooms, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add the white wine to the pan and scrape all browned bits into sauce. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the sauce has reduced by half. Stir in 2 tbsps cognac and seafood, mix thoroughly.)
(Optional sauce: At medium heat in your same pan, heat through mushroom steak sauce or lobster sauce with 3 tbsps of Cognac. Add milk and seafood, flour dredge will act as a roux. At medium-high heat, stir to a rich gravy. If not thickened to your liking, you can add some more flour mixture saved from earlier.)
Preheat oven to 400F. Line oven-safe dishes with a layer of mashed potatoes. Fill each dish with seafood mixture filling, leaving room for generous helping of Gruyere on top. If using white wine sauce, add a bed of bread crumbs on top before topping with Gruyere. On a baking sheet, put bowls in oven and bake until cheese is melted and starting to brown (~20-30 mins, depending on your dish shape – watch carefully). Any extra seafood mixture (and with the loose-weave proportions I’ve given, this is likely!) can be frozen and used later in stews or more Coquilles.