There are the seagulls, the walks along the D-day beaches, the low tide, and then there's Port-en-Bassin, where coquilles Saint-Jacques meet shabby chic. A few weeks ago, I interrupted a tale on this post with a - to be continued - tag. Because half of the pleasure lies in the procrastination. Just like the preparation of a good meal, with several of the ingredients needing to be poached, resting, and rising well ahead of time. Port-en-Bassin is a small fishermen town, counting 2000 inhabitants only, located in Normandy, precisely in the area where apples abound, leading the way to Calvados ageing. There, I stayed at charming velvety house La Maison Matelot, all sailor motif, grey floors and decorative ring-shaped life savers. As I woke up in the early morning in order to head to the local bakery for my usual breakfast ritual, I couldn't help but grin at myself as I listened to the angelic music diffused around the tiny, stoney streets. The majority of the locals are fishermen, that's probably why the service was slightly slow at the local bar, since there seemed to be a crucial backgammon match going on. So I embraced a slow paced weekend. Just like the fishermen, I waited for the tide to be high again, and waved goodbye to them before finding these Popeye-styled boats all coming back to the port around 10 p.m. That's when the show really started. Hundreds, what am I saying, thousands of kilos of pink, perfectly round coquilles Saint-Jacques waiting to be dispatched and distributed all over Europe. The lucky ones coming from this charming shore are haloed Red Label, a French official guarantee of superior quality. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let me listen to the rustling of the waves inside sea shells. On a plate, that's the most common way they're cooked there, as told by my good friend Astrid.
Coquilles Saint Jacques, Port-en-Bassin style
- 16 Saint-Jacques shells
- 100 gr. unsalted dairy butter
- 1 tbs olive oil
- the juice of half a lemon
- a bunch of finely chopped, fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
In a pan, melt 50 gr. of butter with the oil at medium heat; once the mixture is well cooked (that is, the butter has melted, looking all white and creamy), cook the coquilles for 2 minutes only on each side, not more, in order to still feel their melting taste. May some molluscs be very thick, cut each one of them in two in the vertical direction, then proceed onto the cooking. Before serving, sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of both salt and ground pepper. At the same time, gently melt in a small pot 50 gr. of butter and eventually add the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve it while it's hot, along with a wintery soup.
With love and coquilles,