Saturday, December 7, 2013

Coquilles Saint-Jacques and the Vanneaux or Pétoncle. The King Scallop and the Queen Scallop on French Menus. The Coquilles Saint Jacques, and the Vanneaux or Pétoncle in French Cuisine.

The Saint-Jacques - the king scallop.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

Saint-Jacques, Coquilles Saint-Jacques or Feston – The king scallop, or when found in the Mediterranean the St. James’ scallop, is the largest, and the most famous member, of the scallop family. King scallops have shells from 12 to 14cm across with some even larger. The white flesh of the king scallop is delicate and to be truly appreciated must be served very, very lightly fried, grilled or roasted.

In France nearly all the king scallops, in their shells, come from the Atlantic. There are scallops in Mediterranean, where the king scallop is called the St. James Scallop.  Under the names St James the king scallop comes with whole story related pilgrimages from  France to Spain and much more. That story is interesting but it is not a food story and  is too long for this post and so I move on.  When I talked to fishermen in the Marseilles port they confirmed that the Mediterranean and Atlantic king scallops are exactly the same but the different names are traditional.

Hand dived scallops.

 Scallops caught by divers are more expensive. Those interested in conservation will not buy those caught by dredging which destroys much of the ocean floor.
Photograph courtesy of jason nahrung.

King scallops on French Menus:

Feuilleté de Saumon ou de Saint-Jacques, Sauce Nantaise – Salmon and scallop meat served together in a puff pastry casing with a Sauce Nantaise.
 Noix de Saint-Jacques Juste Saisies – The meat of king scallops very lightly fried.  Juste saisies means very, very lightly cooked; even slight over-cooking can ruin the texture of scallops. Scallops may be served in fish stews and in other dishes, the flavor may remain but the texture will have gone. Here the menu listing notes the noix de Saint-Jacques, that makes it clear that the serving is the meat only. The shell, which is only decorative, is not part of this dish.

Noix de St Jacques et Gambas Poêlées au Noilly Prat sur un lit d'Épinards – The meat of king scallops, and large shrimps fried in Noilly Prat, the first, the most famous French vermouth, all served on a bed of spinach.


Lightly seared scallop meat served on a bed of spinach.
Photograph courtesy of ulterior epicure.
Saint-Jacques, au Lard Flambées au Whisky - Scallop meat served with or rolled inside rashers of bacon, and flambéed with Scotch whisky.

 Coquille St. Jacques Couraillée – A king scallop; served in its shell with its roe. When a scallop has roe it will never have been cooked in the shell; in any case scallops are only very rarely cooked in their shell. Scallop shells are for decoration only. When the dish is served the red roe is that of a female, and yellow and or white roe, that of a male.

 If you see a menu in France with Saint Jacques from June through September then it's either frozen or imported but certainly not a fresh French Saint Jacques. Harvesting in French fishing waters is forbidden from June through September for conservation.

Roasted scallop meat and roe braised and then served when replaced in its shell.
Photograph courtesy of larryhalff.

On French menus when a scallop is not served in its shell then the word coquilles, which means shell, will not be used; scallop meat, served without its shell, is noix de Saint-Jacques or just Saint-Jacques, both indicate the nut or meat of the scallop.

The king scallop in other languages:

(Chinese - ), (Dutch - grote mantel ), (German – kammuschel, grosse pilgermusc), (Greek – χτένι), (Hebrew – zdafat hamelech -  צדפת המלך ) (Itaian -  grande pettine), (Rumanian - scoică Saint Jacques),  (Russian -   гребень Максимус -  greben' Maksimus   ), (Spanish -  veiera, concha de peregrine, vieiras rey), (Latin -pecten maximus  or pecten jacobeus)

Vanneaux (Le ) or Pétoncle  –The Queen Scallop

Queen scallops.
Photograph courtesy of Marine Stewardship Council
 Vanneaux (Le ) or Pétoncle  –The Queen Scallop, the bay scallop, also known in the UK as a queenie,  is the scallop most often confused with the king scallop.  The queen is, however, noticeably smaller than the king scallop; usually no more than 10 cms, and most about 7cm across. Queen scallops are nearly as tasty but much less expensive than the king scallop and that price difference should be reflected on the menu.

 Éclade de Moules ou de Vanneaux sur Lit d'Aiguilles de Pin – Mussels and queen scallops baked on a bed of pine needles. 
The tradition of cooking mussels in pine needles is claimed by the fishermen and women on the Atlantic coast of the French région of Poitou-Charentes. Originally this dish would not have contained scallops, they were too expensive and would have been sold; the dish was created for mussels..  Today in restaurants a bed of pine needles cooking mussels and scallops on the sands of Poitou-Charentes will have been replaced by pine needles baking in a restaurant oven.

The queen scallop in other languages:

(Chinese -  又稱女王海扇蛤 -皇后扇)     , (German - gedeckelte kammmuschel), (Dutch -  wijde mantel), (Hebrew -  masrek rav-gal-  מַסְרֵק רַב-גַּל), (Italian – canestrello; canestrello, pettine), (Russian -  kоролева гребешок  -  koroleva grebeshka ), (Spanish -  zamburina, volandeiras.), (Latin - aequipecten opercularis).

More about scallops.

I find visiting the food markets when in France extremely educational and here a fish monger explained that scallops and clams are different members of the bivalve family; this fish monger knew his scallops because I double checked. I had always thought of scallops as a member of the clam family; however this true seafood maven set me right. Now I know that scallops differ from other mollusks because they are can swim and they also have eyes, even though apparently that eyesight is not very good. A scallop moves along the ocean floor by opening and closing its shell whereas clams, mussels and oysters stay put unless they get washed to new locations by ocean currents.

The same fish monger showed me how he sells the fresh scallops in their shells with the abductor mussel intact; the abductor mussel is the part we eat, plus, of course, in season the roe,  For part of the year this fishmonger also sells King scallops imported from Scotland and these he said are second to none. He also sells fresh scallops without their shells for those who do not need those decorative additions.  He also apologized while telling me that he also sells frozen scallops, without their shells.  He pointed out the imported bags of frozen scallops and said he does not take the frozen scallops home; he and his family only eat fresh scallops.

Connected posts:

The translation for the king and queen scallops come in part from my own research but mainly from Wikipedia® and Google Translate ©. Additional translations and any corrections are welcomed.

Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013.

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