Fresh Saint-Jacques shells with big corals are a seafood lover's delight. (Photo Credit: Coquille Saint Jacques, Trouville by Flickr user david__jones, size of the original image has been adapted)
Fresh Saint-Jacques shells with big corals are a seafood lover’s delight. (Photo Credit: Coquille Saint Jacques, Trouville by Flickr user david__jones, size of the original image has been adapted)

Saint-Jacques Shells (last letters “t” and “s” are not pronounced), or the great scallop, is a first choice dish in France. It is nutritionally interesting (proteins, vitamins, trace elements) without a lot of calories: only 50 Kcal/100g (not counting any sauce you might add).

Tips for Eating Saint-Jacques Shells:

Here are the main tips you should utilise to choose and cook the right Saint-Jacques and enjoy the taste!

  • All scallops are not real Saint-Jacques! To enjoy the real Saint-Jacques Shells or great scallops, you have to choose them carefully.
    – Firstly, the period of the year if you want to buy them fresh is from October to mid-May.
    – Secondly, the species: the real one is Pecten maximus caught mostly in Normandy (Protected Geographical Indication: Coquille Saint-Jacques des Côtes d’Armor) and Brittany in France. You’ll find also Pecten jacobaeus in the Mediterranean area and Pecten fumatus in Australia.
    – Be careful! The label of Saint-Jacques can be also be given to other products of the pectinidae family from Canada, Chili, Chine, etc. But it is not the same seafood: the shells are different and they don’t belong to the same genus.
    -It’s common to say that the tastier is the Pecten maximus and I agree more than never!
  • How to choose them fresh? Take care of the aspect and the smell (iodine only). The shell should be closed or should close itself quickly if you touch it. Sometimes the fishmonger will sell them already without the shell. The white part should be pearly, the coral should be shiny and bulging. No part should touch the ice, it spoils the flesh.
  • How to open the shells? Use a knife and be careful!

  • Can you buy them frozen? Yes, of course; it’s not the best choice but if you do, defrost them at ambient temperature in some milk. But you should know:

1. You will never have the same taste as the fresh ones
2. The weight of the scallop is artificially raised with water
3. Additives can be added for the conservation

  • With or without shell? It’s just question of presentation. In France one of the best recipes with great scallops is Saint-Jacques gratinées: great scallop with other seafood or mushroom, a sauce, and breadcrumbs presented in their shells after a quick moment in the oven.
Corolle de Saint-Jacques de Dieppe, effeuillé de tourteau. (Photo Credit: Flickr user Hôtel de la Paix Genève)
Saint-Jacques from Dieppe and crab. (Photo Credit: Flickr user: Hôtel de la Paix Genève)
  • Raw or cooked? It can easily be eaten raw: tartare, carpaccio are very simple to do and flavourful. Scallops should be very fresh and not served to pregnant women. If you cook them, the cooking of the scallop has to be short. Otherwise you will lose consistency and taste.
  • With or without coral? The coral is the orange part of the scallop, it’s the female sexual organ and gets bigger with the development of the eggs. You can cook it with the white part of the scallop and present them together which gives the best visual effect to your dish. Some people doesn’t find any interest in the coral, they don’t like the consistency and the taste is less strong than the white part of the scallop. So they separate them and use the coral to make a tasty orange sauce or chantilly.
  • And what to drink? As with other seafood, it is recommended to choose a mineral white wine. But you can also enjoy champagne when preparing them raw or a fruity dry white wine for rich sauces, and a light red wine for seafood/meat combinations.

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