My mother used to pride herself on her “Coquilles St. Jacques” whenever guests came over. Out came the pink, scallop shells, the tiny forks and the “good” china. I remember having my first taste and finding it salty and sweet. Scallops have played a major role in my life since my first salivating scallop moment at the age of six. While working in Toronto and Ottawa, they were always featured on my menus. While in Europe, they baffled me as I spent many hours cleaning their delicate shells and then “shucking” them. While in the Caribbean, they were shipped to me, first class, only to be gobbled up quickly by my boss. In Prince Edward Island, they were demanded by my guests, and paired with fatty, unctuous pork belly. Yes, that is my signature; scallops and pork belly. It has been on several of my menus, in several different ways, but it is always there; like a security blanket.
My usual Saturday morning these days consists of baby – baby feeding, baby changing and a baby outing to the Halifax Farmers’ Market. On this particular Saturday, I left for the market with a purpose; Saturday night dinner. I was fortunate enough to finally get sommelier Alanna MacIntyre and her husband, Flavio, over for dinner, as well as a ‘foodie’ named David Hachey, and our usual suspects, Lekas and Shannon. So, to market to market to get a fat…scallop? Yes, there they were, staring directly at me from the stall of Mr. Peter Darnell of Indian Point Marine Farms. Peter has supplied me in the past with his meaty mussels and scallops, but on this particular day, they were so goddamn gorgeous that I had to have them! Big and meaty with their orange roe still attached; something quite rare these days. I snatched up a few pounds and started plotting my attack. Do I shuck them and serve them raw? Would I broil them with bread crumbs and cheese? Would Momma Lavallée get a phone call and a request for her Coquilles St. Jacques recipe? Nope, they were thrown into a 500F degree oven and baked in their shell until they opened, then doused with my special stash of Lungarotti Extra Virgin Olive Oil, fresh lemon juice and Maldon Salt. Alanna and David both brought over crazy amazing Chardonnays (Mazzocco from Sonoma & Springfield Estate from South Africa) that went beautifully with them. Eight bottles of wine later and a platter full of scallop shells, we finally rose from our long wooden dining table with a level of satisfaction that only be achieved by the right combination of scallops, fine wine and good friends.