Whenever I am "home" in the Laurentians in Quebec, giant sea scallops are on the menu at least once a week, or so I would like. Tender and juicy, each is easily the size of a child's fist. These magnificently big scallops are simply the best pan-grilled until browned and crispy outside, yet inside still rare and full of the flavors of the sea. I know you can get them elsewhere in the world. Somehow though, so close to where they were harvested, they taste even better. Relatively close, that is. The Laurentians are still a good 1000 km away, as the crow flies. In Canada, these giant sea scallops are found (and cultured) in the Atlantic regions of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the north part of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
In this recipe, the tender scallop gets to mingle with a creamy mussel "mouclade" fragrant with fennel and fresh thyme. Mouclade is a classic French mussel dish from the Poitou-Charentes region on the Atlantic Coast north of Bordeaux in France. The mussels are cooked in white wine, and served (typically on the half shell) in a creamy sauce. In the photograph, the dish is finished with a pinch of espelette. A little further south down the French Atlantic coast, espelette is a dried red pepper from the Basque region. Named after the town of Espelette in the Pays Basque, this fragrant and mild red pepper is traditionally used in making Bayonne ham.
(recipe is for 2)
2 large king scallop
1 cup steamed mussels, taken from their shells
1/2 cup of the mussel cooking liquid*
splash white wine
1/4 cup double cream
quarter bulb fennel, diced
a sprig of fresh thyme
1 shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped fine
a pinch of espelette (optional)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
melt the butter until it starts to foam. Add the shallots and fennel and saute over low-heat until soft (takes about 5 minutes). Add the white wine and cook out. Add the mussel cooking liquid and reduce to half. Add the double cream and simmer until all flavors have infused. Finish to taste. When ready to serve, add the cooked mussels and warm through in the sauce (do not simmer or keep in sauce too long: the mussels will get tough). In the meantime, sprinkle salt flakes on top of the scallop, heat butter until starting to brown and sear the scallop quickly on both sides to brown. Place the hot, seared scallop on top of the mussels in the cream sauce and serve immediately.