Coquille St Jacques: a gourmet dish from the sea

So many things in life are taken for granted, none more so in Jersey, my English Channel home, than fish. When I was a young lad, fish was very much a staple food. All kinds of fish. My father was a hobby fisherman and many a fine table of fresh fish would be presented in our home and in lots of different ways: from plaice to Dover sole, bass to mackerel, bream to whiting, lobster to spider crab, or if we were really lucky a shanker or even a nice cray fish. What my mother would sometimes create shocked me. I can remember one dish in particular. She called it ‘Coquille St. Jacques’.

There are many plays on this dish. Tradition has it with a breadcrumb topping, with some added cheese to give a final crispy finish. Today’s recipe doesn’t stick with the traditional. My preferences these days lie elsewhere.

Fish dishes always offer sheer delight to the taste buds.The flavours and the aroma are unbelievable. This particular dish features mussels and scallops along with salmon and shrimp. Fresh cultured blue mussels are not only tasty; they are a healthy seafood choice. They are high in omega-3s and have high proportions of the daily requirements for zinc, iodine, vitamins B and C and iron. Mussels are very low in fat (2.2 grams of fat per 100 grams of mussel meat) and carbohydrates.

Scallops contain nutrients that can help promote cardiovascular health and protect against colon cancer; they are an excellent source of cyanocobalamin or vitamin B12.  Scallops are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient for cardiovascular health. Omega-3 helps ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, slows the growth of cancerous tumours, helps prevent arthritis and helps combat skin disorders. Scallops are also a good source of potassium and magnesium.

Dill tops off the baked, gourmet, seafood shown on its single serving dish.

Ingredients (serves 4)
4 large scallops
12 king shrimp (cooked)
12 mussels
1 small piece of salmon
6 potatoes
½ cup butter
1 egg
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
A sprig of dill
Salt and pepper
1 cup of milk
1½ cups of cream (36 per cent)
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
1 cup of white wine

Peel and cook the potatoes ready for mashing.  In a large frying pan add half the butter, soften and add the scallops and a little seasoning to taste, and gently cook the scallops until they turn golden. Then add the salmon and milk and simmer gently, giving the salmon time to cook. This will take a further eight minutes.

Soften the remaining butter in a small saucepan, then add the mussels, half the onion, the dill, wine and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling turn down the stove to provide cooking time: no more than 10 minutes.

When cooked, drain the contents of the pans, keeping the liquid. Distribute the fish evenly on four oven-proof serving plates and place a little onion on each serving. Add three shrimps to each dish.

Mash the cooked potatoes, add the egg, half a cup of cream and pinch of salt and pepper. Blend thoroughly. Fill a piping bag with your potato mixture and pipe around the edge of each dish.

For the sauce, I generally use a form of hollandaise, with the fish stock for added flavour.

Sauce hollandaise
½ cup butter
3 large eggs
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Dash cayenne pepper
5 tbsp. hot fish stock

Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan, and clarify. In a small bowl, whisk or beat egg yolks with the lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Gradually beat in butter, then some stock. Return mixture to saucepan and beat over very low heat until mixture is slightly thickened. Gently pour the sauce over each serving of the fish, ensuring that the fish is always completely covered. Put a little dill on top for colour and contrast.

Place in the oven at 350 degrees F. and cook for 20 minutes then serve. Remember these plates will be hot so place them on larger plates to serve. Enjoy.

Originally published by Ian Leatt on Lifestyles 55

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