So many things in life are taken for granted, in Jersey, my English Channel home – none more so than fish. When I was young, fish was my staple food. My father was a hobby fisherman, and many a fine table of fresh fish would be presented in our home: from plaice to dover sole, bass to mackerel, bream to whiting, lobster to spider crab, or if we were really lucky a shanker or a nice crayfish.
My mother’s creations were sometimes awesome. One dish that I fondly remember was her Coquille St. Jacques.
On a recent trip to Montreal, I visited Brasserie T, next door to Place des Arts. It offers fine dining indoors and out. I settled down at my table and, reviewing the menu, ordered something I hadn’t had in a very long while − Coquille St. Jacques. The floodgates of memory opened.
Traditionally the dish was made with a bread-crumb topping, covered with cheese to give a final crispy finish. Today’s recipes, however, are more creative.
The dish created here features mussels, scallops, salmon and shrimp, and like all fine fish dishes offers unbelievable aromas and flavours.
Coquille St. Jacques
4 large scallops
12 king shrimp (cooked)
1 small piece of salmon
½ cup butter
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 so they’re ready for mashing. In a large frying pan add half the butter; soften it and add the scallops and a little seasoning to taste. Gently cook the scallops until they turn golden. Next, add the salmon and milk, simmering gently to allow the salmon time to cook. This will take a further eight minutes.
Soften the remaining butter in a small saucepan and add the mussels, half the onion, dill, wine and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil turn down the heat and cook for no more than 10 minutes.
Once cooked, drain the pan contents, saving 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; adding the egg, half a cup of cream and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend thoroughly. Fill a piping bag with the potato mixture and pipe around the edge of each dish.
For the sauce, I generally prepare a form of hollandaise using the fish stock for added flavour.
½ cup butter
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Dash cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons hot fish stock
Heat butter in a heavy saucepan and clarify. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk or beat egg yolks with the lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Gradually beat in the butter and stock. Return the mixture to a saucepan and beat over very low heat until it is slightly thickened. Gently pour the sauce over each serving of fish, completely covering it. Place a little dill on top for colour and contrast.
Cook in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes and serve. Remember these plates will be hot, so place them on larger plates to serve. Enjoy!
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications Inc.