I grew up within minutes of the Bay of Bengal, which I experienced through the sights and sounds of the beach in Chennai (Madras), India – it was my image of a beach. I have also seen cows lazily grazing on grass. But, recently, when I saw green pastures dotted with cows on steep cliffs overlooking the vastness of the North Atlantic Ocean in Normandy, I held on to the railing beside the tiny church where I was standing to adjust an image in my mind.
Here is a recreation and adaptation1 of a home-cooked dish that I was served in Normandy:
Scallops (or a firm fleshed fish cut into cubes)
Béchamel or white sauce made with the best milk and cream
A creamy textured cheese that will blend well with the cream (optional)
Vermouth or white wine
Salt and pepper
Shallow buttered oven-proof dish
Steam spinach until soft and cooked. Poach scallops for a few minutes until just cooked and tender in a mixture of vermouth and water with some chopped shallots, tarragon, salt and pepper. Set the scallops aside, reduce cooking liquid and strain before using it to make the béchamel. Layer some of the cooked spinach in the oven-proof dish, place a few scallops, and finally cover with enough sauce. Broil in an oven or use kitchen torch to brown the top.
In French, le coquille refers to the shell, and Saint Jacques to Saint James. There is even description of a symbolic relation between the two words, but, together, Coquille St.Jacques, refers to the classic French dish of scallops in a rich cream sauce, one that celebrates the sea and dairy of Normandy.
1. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol.1 Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck