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Aug 5, 2008
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Wine With Coquilles St. Jacques

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas       

Making this classic and delicious dish was inspired by our recent purchase of four silicone scallop shells to replace the real shells that we've lost somewhere in the boxes of stuff we have in storage.  (An expensive and decadent luxury, our rental storage space has become as vast and impenetrable as outer space.)  While these new ovenproof, non-stick, microwaveable and dishwasher-safe shells are the latest in high-tech kitchen gadgetry, this is very much a retro recipe.  It calls for cream, butter, cheese and gratinéed breadcrumbs, and because of all that succulent richness, we found that a generous-bodied wine, lushly textured and full of flavor, will work best.

Indeed, among the dozen wines we sampled with the coquilles, our conclusion was that bigger is better.  The leaner wines we tried (a northern Italian Pinot Grigio, for example, and a Washington State Riesling) seemed bitter, and they made the scallops taste slightly fishy.  We quickly concluded that this is one occasion in which fat, buttery Chardonnays that disappoint with some other dishes can truly shine, as the presence of oak will be an asset rather than a drawback.  In addition to the five wines recommended below, others that we feel fairly confident also will go well with the scallops include Australian Sémillon and big Rhône Roussannes.  No doubt about it: when it comes to choosing a wine to go with Cocquilles St. Jacques, richness rocks!


Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a first course.

Cook the scallops in oven proof shells or ramekins.

3 tablespoons butter (divided use)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
Salt & pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 pound sea scallops, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup ½ and ½ or heavy cream
½ cup grated parmesan or gruyere cheese
¼ cup panko bread crumbs

Pre-heat broiler.

Spray silicone baking shells with olive oil spray or other cooking spray (if using regular shells or ramekins, lightly oil or butter them). 

In a sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add olive oil.  Stir in shallots and mushrooms, and cook until they are soft.  Add garlic and cook another minute.  Add wine and cook over high heat until liquid has reduced by about half.  Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.  Add scallops and simmer, stirring constantly, for 2 to 4 minutes, or until scallops are just cooked through (do not overcook or they will be tough). With a slotted spoon, remove mixture to a bowl.  Add remaining butter to the liquid in the pan, and when it has melted whisk in the flour.  Stir for a minute or two, then whisk in the ½ and ½ or cream and continue whisking over medium heat until the mixture has thickened.  Stir in the scallops, remove mixture from heat, and divide mixture among the shells.  Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with cheese and bread crumbs.  Broil about 4 inches from heat source for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.



Approx. Price



Bellingham, Coastal Region (South Africa) 'Fair Maiden' 2007

(Imported by Cape Wine Ventures)





This unusual blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Verdelho tastes sumptuously rich.  Its ripe summer fruit flavors and spicy oak enabled it to more than hold its own with the creamy dish.




Bridlewood, Central Coast (California) Viognier 'Reserve' 2007





A succulent, peachy Viognier, with opulent fruit flavors and a fleshy texture, this wine seemed almost excessively endowed when sipped on its own, but was just right with a dish that itself tastes rich and lavish. 




Joseph Drouhin, Chablis Premier Cru (France) 2006 (Imported by Dreyfus Ashby & Co.)





Many Chablis wines might be too austere for pairing with Coquilles St. Jacques, but this 2006 shows both depth of flavor and a broad texture, so it in no sense seemed overpowered.  In fact, its subtle minerality enhanced the experience by adding a note of grace and sophistication.




Keenan, Spring Mountain District Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2006






A nicely balanced but still full-throttled Chardonnay, this wine's oak-influenced personality shone especially brightly.  It would seem overblown with many other pairings, but was delicious with this one.




MacMurray Ranch, Sonoma Coast (California) Pinot Gris 2007




Ripe pears and sweet spice are the flavors that distinguish this full-bodied, richly textured, but still refreshing wine.  When enjoyed with the Coquilles St. Jacques, each sip encouraged another-as well as another forkful.