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Squirrel it away

I’ve been thinking for days, days, about what to call this dish.

It’s not that somebody else didn’t already name it, because they did. It’s called Cream of Scallop Soup, and I found the recipe in Gourmet a month or two ago, although I can’t remember which issue it came from, exactly. (I don’t have room to save magazines in their entirety - only chosen pages - and the page that includes this recipe has no issue date.) Cream of Scallop Soup is a perfectly reasonable name, but it’s boring. Also, when I hear it, I envision, unfortunately, raw scallops and cream whirring in a blender. I probably shouldn’t have told you that, should I? Either way, this dish deserves a more special name. It deserves a name that reflects how stunningly lovely, how drop-your-spoon-in-shock delicious, it is.

So, what could we call it instead? Maybe we should try a French translation. Most things sound better in French, I think. (Except my name, which winds up sounding like Moe Lee.) How about Crème de coquilles Saint-Jacques? Or, fancier, Coquilles Saint-Jacques dans leur bouillon a la crème fraîche? Maybe too fancy. How about Poached Scallops in Crème Fraîche Broth? Or Scallops ‘n Cream? It could be like Cookies ‘n Cream. Only different.

Whatever we choose to call it, I suggest that you bookmark this recipe right now - or go tear it out of your own copy of Gourmet - and squirrel it away for a festive occasion. It might be a little bit extravagant, both flavor-wise and money-wise, for an everyday dish, especially during these post-holiday weeks, but I wanted to go ahead and write about it, because it is so, so good. And also because Olaiya and Ben, two of our friends who ate it with us on New Year’s Eve, have requested the recipe, and I mean to deliver.

Our New Year’s Eve dinner was a potluck, and this dish was my main contribution, aside from a pan of brownies for dessert. (There was also, of course, the céleri rémoulade, and a grated carrot salad, but Brandon did most of the labor on those.) Olaiya had requested seafood, and I happened to have this recipe lying at the top of my file, so I took it as a sign. I hadn’t made it before, but the list of ingredients made my mouth water: sea scallops and crème fraîche, fish stock and white wine, shallots, thyme, and egg yolks. The recipe also had a very fine pedigree, having been adapted, the magazine noted, from brothers Jean and Pierre Troisgros of the famed restaurant Troisgros in Roanne, France. I don’t usually like to make dishes for the first time when there are lots of other diners involved, but the worst that could happen, I figured, was that it might turn out terribly and we would be forced to skip straight to the brownies, which would be fine with me anyway.

So I got some fish bones and made the required fish stock. It was my first go at fish stock, but it went swimmingly. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Then I went out and splurged, since it was New Year’s Eve, on some stunningly gorgeous fresh scallops. And then we gathered the ingredients and went to Olaiya’s, where I had such a nice time with everyone and the champagne and the céleri rémoulade and the flash on my camera that, when the time came for our main course, I proceeded to cook the absolute crap out of those innocent scallops. They were tough and rubbery and so, so sad. I was even sadder. But we had to at least try the finished dish, I decided, and so I marched on, dividing them among our soup bowls and dousing them with their creamy broth, a fragrant amalgam of the stock and some crème fraîche, scented with shallot and thyme and thickened ever so slightly with egg yolk.

We sat down to eat it, and everything went silent. No one spoke for at least a minute. If you have ever experienced such a phenomenon, you will know that it can mean only one of two things: a) that your dining companions are completely speechless with ecstasy, or b) that they cannot talk because they are desperately preoccupied with finding a place to spit out the food that they are chewing. I feared the worst. But then Ben raised his head, smiled, and slowly, solemnly, pronounced my name, which, in his personal dining language, means that everything is well.

Actually, it was better than well. The overcooked scallops may have had less textural appeal than a pencil eraser, but the rest of the dish was supple, silky, completely spectacular. The broth itself was complex and aromatic, rich but not the least bit heavy, a sequence of flavors that opened with the brightness of wine and lemon and closed with the sweetness of cream. I don’t know any better way to describe it than to say that it seemed impeccably French, which is to say that it tasted harmonious and refined and very Old World fancy, as though it should be presented by a waiter in a tuxedo with flawless posture and a perfectly waxed mustache. I made it again tonight, just to be sure that it was as good as I remembered - only the best for you - and with properly(!) cooked scallops, it most certainly was. I am not a great fan of Mondays, but if they all ended this way, I might change my mind.

And speaking of great things, thank you so much for your enthusiasm about the book cover. It blew me away. Really. After two years of relatively solitary work on this book, it’s hard not to be nervous, I have to admit, about beginning to share it. Thank you for making it feel a little bit less scary, and a lot more fun.

Cream of Scallop Soup
Adapted from Gourmet and The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean & Pierre Troisgros

Be sure to read through this entire recipe before you start. Once you begin, you’ll want to move quickly, or else the scallops will get cold. For a very sophisticated dish, it’s fairly quick and simple to pull together, especially if you make the white fish stock (which is also fairly quick and simple) ahead of time. I made my stock the day before, and when it came time to make dinner, all I had to do was retrieve it from the fridge.

Oh, and about sources: Trader Joe’s sells fantastic frozen scallops for $10.99 a pound, which is a great price. The package is labeled Wild Japanese Scallops, I believe. They were just as tasty as the more expensive ones from the Sea of Cortez that I bought on New Year’s Eve. Also, for the fish stock: to get bones, call your local fish market. If you give them a day’s notice, they should be happy to set aside some bones for you. I called my old faithful, Wild Salmon Seafood Market, and they gave me all kinds of halibut bones and scraps, free of charge.

¾ lb. sea scallops, tough ligament removed from side of each if attached
1 cup white fish stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 small shallot, chopped
1 thyme sprig
¾ cup crème fraîche
2 large egg yolks
Black pepper
2 Tbsp. finely chopped chives

Rinse the scallops, and then pat them dry. Quarter them, and season them with 1/8 tsp. salt.

In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the stock, wine, shallot, thyme, and ½ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and boil for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the solids before discarding them. Return the liquid to the saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then stir in the scallops and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the scallops are just cooked through, about 2 minutes. (Do not overcook. If anything, leave them rare; they will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat.) Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon, and keep them warm, covered. Reserve the cooking liquid in the saucepan.

Meanwhile, put the crème fraîche in a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. Simmer until it reduces slightly, about 3 minutes. Add it to the cooking liquid in the medium saucepan, stir well, and simmer together for another 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the crème fraîche-cooking liquid mixture, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Add half of the remaining crème fraîche mixture to the yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Then pour it all back into the medium saucepan, whisking. Cook over very low heat, whisking, until just slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Do not boil. Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning, and salt as needed.

Divide the scallops among 4 small soup bowls, and then ladle the soup on top. Sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings


Blogger Kitt said...

Wow, that sounds pretty darn awesome. That moment of silence says it all, so to speak. (Sorry.) Definitely saving this one for an elegant party.

12:44 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Gemma said...

This looks beautiful. I adore scallops but am too scared to cook them in case they're rubbish and it scars my love for them, is that ridiculous? Maybe I should hunt down some frozen scallops and see if this soup will cure me of my fear.

1:35 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous deborah said...

oh mol-ee (said really quickly in australian)... this is such a beautiful sounding soup. thank you for writing so lovingly about it. it's bookmarked and ready for my next indulgent dinner.

1:37 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully simple yet flavourful soup. The tough bit you say to remove from the scallop the roe is lovely when lightly cooked in a pan with some nut brown butter.
- The Kitchen Enquirer

2:48 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Mevrouw Cupcake said...

This one is definitely going to be clipped and saved. I love, love, love scallops and how could you possibly go wrong with the addition of good fish stock, white wine, crème fraîche and egg yolks? Well you can't, Old World fancy tastes GOOD.

3:35 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Victoria said...

I LOVE this post. In all my years of cooking, I have had that moment of complete silence only once.

I think it only counts when you are with dining companions who are being especially gregarious, very loquacious - in other words carrying on - and once they start eating, the room is blanketed by complete silence. It's stunning, isn't it? I have never forgotten it.

Anyway, this dish sounds wonderful, especially since I love scallops. I will make it this coming cold, cold weekend in the country.

Do you have any particular wine suggestions? White Sancerre? Sav blanc? Chablis? Champagne (well, it's always Champagne, isn't it?) Just asking.

3:54 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Yvonne said...

lol your posts are always so much longer than the usual blogs I read. not a bad thing 'course.
i love the simple style of your pics.

4:11 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger lexi said...

This sounds so delicate and delicious - like a perfect starter. I love scallops, but almost always end up grilling them in their half shell with a little butter. Yummy, but perhaps time for something new. It's a little hot for soup down here at the moment (Australia), but I have bookmarked (as suggested) and will promptly return when weather permits. Thanks!

4:19 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Ali Goodwin said...

I've been following your posts for several years thanks to your Uncle Arnie who lives down the street and was so excited to tell a Seattle transplant about his niece's endeavors in the city. I am smitten by your recipes and your accompanying prose. It's scallop season here in Maine, and the next time my brother stops by with his catch of the day, this is the first recipe I'm going to try. Congrats on your new book and to Brandon on the new restaurant, too! I love that neighborhood and used to live just blocks away. Funny that I moved to Maine and opened a gourmet pizza place. I wish you both all the best!
Keep 'em coming!

5:04 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Brian G. said...

Ooh, only one comment before me (a bunch on your email probably.) It does sounds delicious. It reminds me of that moment in Chocolat at their dinner. I always know when dinner is good at my house because the kids are suddenly quiet.

5:05 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Jessie said...

Those moments of [good] silence are the best compliment a cook can receive.
Always looking for a reason to buy creme fraiche, so thank you for sharing such a great recipe.
btw, love the name Creme de Coquilles Saint-Jacques. =)

5:34 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Adrienne said...

I suppose my next step is to find a fishmonger... this looks delicious.

5:59 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Laura said...

I finished the post and realized I had been holding my breath the whole way through. I love dishes like these that really do scallops justice. And I too am a fish stock virgin...might just give it a try now that I have a good excuse to!

6:04 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger maggie said...

Oh how lovely. I believe that special seafood dishes are perfect for celebrating. Rich and indulgent but don't leave you feeling overfull (until you eat another brownie.) Thanks for the recipe.

6:20 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger jbeach said...

This sounds fresh, delicate, and chic. Thanks for recommending the recipe! I saw it in Gourmet, too, and was tempted, but not sure.
Now I'm convinced to try it.
While it does sound French, it also seems like something that could have been served at the restaurant I dined in the other night, Aquavit.

6:27 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Erin said...

Naming a recipe can be a difficult task. I have to force myself not to go with French and work to be creative with my own language. It doesn't always work out.

7:13 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Oh, my! My Beloved is going to love this one! I'll have to get some fish bones right away!

7:52 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous lisaiscooking said...

I love scallops, and this sounds divine, smooth, rich, and very French. So glad to have the recipe now.

7:52 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Barbara said...

Scallop anything would be at the top of my list so I cannot wait to try this recipe. This weekend, if not sooner. My mouth was watering while reading. How did I miss this recipe in Gourmet? Thanks for testing it for us!

7:55 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Niki said...

Must have been some universal alignment going on.. I made scallops last night, as well. Pan seared and doused with a sauce of white wine, butter, shallots and tarragon. Yum.

7:59 AM, January 13, 2009  
OpenID racheleats said...

I like the sound of this soup, I even like the original name of cream of scallop soup, maybe because it sounds like something my mum made for a dinner party in 1979.
Made the celeri remoulade, more importantly made the mayonnaise and most important of all it worked - I was so happy.
I am really enjoying the book/Delancy updates and by the way I really think you should both come to Rome - in the name of research of course - to get some pizza ideas from 2 top notch pizzerie in Testaccio.

9:23 AM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Dana McCauley said...

The joy of simplicity! This looks like a wonderful dish to showcase super fresh seafood.

My husband went scallop harvesting in Newfoundland earlier this year. He and his friends pan fried their catch but I think this soup would have been a fitting recipe for them, too.

Here's a link to my post about their scallop adventure:


9:28 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Lael said...

You continue to please. Your writing and recipe are both lovely. I'm a big fan of simple, pure tastes and this suits very well. I'm just going to have to wait till I'm a place where I can trust the freshness of the scallops!

11:52 AM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger Snooky doodle said...

this looks great :)

12:03 PM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger scarlet said...

How about Creme de la Mer.

12:44 PM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous alexyss said...

sounds wonderous~thinking of how to do an all vegetarain version since the soup base seems so good....i was just a little confused when u metioned in the description brightness of lemon but looking the recipe there was no lemon or zest?? thanks!

1:36 PM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I wish I could make this in my own home! We keep a kosher kitchen so I can't but I do lovvve scallops (don't tell :)).

2:54 PM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger ~alison said...

mmmmmmm...sounds delicious.

4:52 PM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I know this would be a fabulous dish, because I've had cream of scallop soup before, and I loved it. (And I'm rather tentative about scallops...) BTW, it was a pureed scallop soup -- it works, don't be creeped out.

5:14 PM, January 13, 2009  
Anonymous robin said...

I laughed out loud when I read your post, I really enjoy your writing and descriptions... I can't wait to try this recipe. I love fish soups and stews (I am making a coconut fish soup right now!) I am very lucky to have dined at the Troisgros' restaurant when I was young, in the 60's, thanks to my parents who took my sister and me on a culinary and historical tour of France that I'll never forget! Now I'm looking forward to getting the Troisgros' cookbook, and yours too, and to hearing about Brandon's restaurant! Very exciting!

5:40 PM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger A Day That Is Dessert said...

The silence says it all - quite a recommendation!

9:58 PM, January 13, 2009  
Blogger indie_tea said...

It is from the November "Gourmet". How do I know...because your lovely blog, with its excellent recipes, had inspired me to check out the magazine. And the November issue is the first one I got, and the recipe was in it. Yours looks even better, and more beautiful!
new blog: http://darjeelingdreams.blogspot.com/

1:27 AM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Asher said...

What could have possibly followed the soup? It sounds like a beautiful dish that would leave all others in its wake.

7:53 AM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Dallas_Bitchin'Kitchen said...

Hi Orangette! I just found your blog and I am looking forward to following it from now on. That soup is definitely elegant, and looks like a great dish for a cold winter night like tonight.

11:57 AM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Kristin said...

I love scallops. And this looks so good. I thought for sure it was a puree until I saw the scallop pieces. This would make a good stand in for our traditional new years oyster stew.

2:08 PM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Hannah said...

I agree. Cream of Scallop is an unfortunate name. Alas, scallops 'n cream makes me think of cookies 'n cream except smelling fishy with slimy off-white chunks...ew. (I know, scallop aren't slimy. But I can't help it)

2:40 PM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger seesaw designs said...

sounds amazing

4:01 PM, January 14, 2009  
Anonymous EB said...

What an image. Ben saying your name slowly. Love it.

5:19 PM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger Alina said...


9:11 PM, January 14, 2009  
Blogger born said...

wow looks amazing. I know what i'm having for dinner now! Thanks.

Kitchen Bar Stools

7:12 AM, January 15, 2009  
Anonymous Julie said...

My Grandad used to have the entire table sit in complete silence while took the first taste of whatever it was we were eating - silence is always a good sign.

How about scallop bisque? I love the word bisque - it always evokes images of creamy loveliness.

7:40 AM, January 15, 2009  
Anonymous Catherine said...

You're name in Spanish would be positively culinary. Molly ends up pronounced Mo-leh, a type of savory sauce typically made with chocolate and about a bazillion other nuts, herbs, and spices.

There is of course room for confusion. The daughter of the English teacher at the family literacy program where I work is named Molly and went to daycare with the children of the Mexican families taking classes. One day, a little two year old came up to the teacher and asked if she was the mother of 'Pozole' (a Mexican soup made with hominy). She knew she was named after SOME kind of food.

9:54 PM, January 15, 2009  
Blogger Alejandra said...

This recipe sounds perfectly dreamy. And I've no plans on squirreling it away--I just want it now! I love scallops and thought the gentleman in my life (and home) does not, I think it would be perfect for one of those nights when he goes off "with the boys." Oh with a glass of wine and a good movie or maybe just some music and a book--it's a perfect decadent solo dinner!

10:09 AM, January 16, 2009  
Blogger amisha said...

i am also a lover of scallops but i've never tried cooking them... one of those little weird cooking fears i guess! this sounds absolutely wonderful, and if even overcooked scallops let it turn out well, then my fears are lessened :)
and i love seeing your polas there on the table with the soup!

5:13 PM, January 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, it is in the gourmet cookbook, coquilles St. Jacques...i've been wanting to make it myself, alas i live with a non-seafood lover...oh, the humanity!!!

8:46 PM, January 16, 2009  
Anonymous tiffany @ the garden apartment said...

This sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip on how to get the fish bones for the stock. I hope to try this soon.

6:30 AM, January 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It was wonderful meeting you last night. I was the one with Matt Armendariz who couldnt stop cracking nervous jokes. I'd love to help out with restauranting if you need and look forward to seeing you again.

Now, off for some pre-LA brunch with you know who.


8:57 AM, January 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too saw this recipe in Gourmet, but wasn't truly inspired to make it until I read your post. It is SO yummy, and now that I've made it, will be so much easier and faster next time (especially since I have the fish stock in the freezer now). I made my own Creme Fraiche (totally easy, and way to save $$), and used inexpensive bay scallops (barely cook them!). We literally just finished 5 minutes ago, and we're all smiling. Thanks!

2:44 PM, January 18, 2009  
Blogger Scott at Real Epicurean said...

Ooh, did someone say scallops? My FAVOURITE!

11:35 AM, January 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

simplicity at it's best!

2:40 PM, January 19, 2009  
Blogger Jenny said...

I might be the only person alive that doesn't like scallops. I wish I did, this soup looks so great!

2:59 PM, January 19, 2009  
Anonymous Metroknow said...

Wow, I cannot wait to try this recipe. Such a great recipe too for rainy Northwest weather (though this week has been gloriously sunny). Thank you for sharing!

9:19 PM, January 19, 2009  
Blogger StylinGirl said...

Remembering the scallops we had in the freezer and paying heed to your praise, I made this soup Saturday night and it was...wonderful. My man likes to spice things up and as much as he tried to get me to add all sorts of extras, I held back. I wanted to taste this soup EXACTLY as described and we're so glad we did. SILKY is the word I'd use. The scallops melted in my mouth with the slightly tangy smoothness of the broth. Thanks Molly- we'll definitely make this again!

6:22 AM, January 20, 2009  
Blogger Cam said...

This recipe sounds delicious. However, did you mean to bring the wine to a simmer (rather than the creme fraiche) before adding it to the reserved broth?

8:29 AM, January 22, 2009  
Blogger Molly said...

I know that bit about the creme fraiche sounds kind of weird, Cam, but it's correct. You bring it to a gentle simmer - I was too nervous about curdling to let mine really bubble much, but the original recipe definitely says to simmer - and it reduces slightly, and then you add it to the stock mixture.

8:34 AM, January 22, 2009  
Anonymous Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

Nage de Scallop a la creme? Sorry can't seem to be able to do accents!

I just found your blog Molly: this is going to be such a treat going through older post! and read not only the recipe, but more importantly the "stories". This is going to be like a good book: Read the prequels, and there are sequels coming. What fun!


5:15 PM, January 31, 2009  
OpenID kitchenscraps said...

There is some sort of mysterious connection between scallops and cream... in fact scallops are one of the few proteins that you can blend with cream to make a properly emulsified mousseline without adding egg whites as a protein binder. Can't tell you the science behind it, but I suspect the relationship transcends mere science and enters the realm of magic.

10:30 PM, February 02, 2009  
Blogger Julie Erwin said...

I love the photograph. Really elegant.

2:05 PM, February 24, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hooray for peanut butter and jelly. I have found that when i crave old faithful pbj but push it aside because it's common, easy and maybe too .... i just end up eating two at a time later. pbj is just a perfect food, particularly when toasted up so the outside gets crisp and the insides melt together.... so although good for you for giving up store-bought sliced bread, i think peanut butter and jelly sandwiches should always be relished and enjoyed to the full.

9:46 PM, February 26, 2009  
Blogger Emily said...

Made this the night before last with my friend here in her tiny kitchen in Rennes. It was delicious, though I did add a bit more stock that it called for because it was a bit too creamy for me and my annoyingly delicate stomach (for all things deep-fried and cream-filled).
However, I do have to ask how in the heck you managed to serve 4 people with this! I mean, we gobbled down the entire pot between the two of us, and that was with salad and sanglier saucisson. Apparently, I eat too much ;)

3:19 AM, March 02, 2009  
Blogger Jess said...

I've been thinking of a name that would so justice to this magnificent mets. How 'bout Crème de Festons? Can't wait to whip up this one since I love the comparable potage of Bisque d'Homard.

8:29 AM, March 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made this soup last weekend and it was great! I too added a bit more stock (not home made but still wonderful). I don't know how it would feed four though. :O We had enough for two small bowls as it is VERY rich but as a treat, well it was just that. Thank you for inspiring us!

9:33 PM, March 09, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh sorry, I forgot to add one thing! I lived in Paris for years and am now an expat in another foreign city - Hong Kong. Its been unseasonably "cold" here, so I was nostalgically craving Parisian food (don't ask)! Anyway, this this beautiful soup really made my day. Thank you!

9:39 PM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger trish brooks said...

This is just wonderful and worth making over and over. But you know I wonder how it would be with shrimp? Any thoughts from anyone out there?

10:58 AM, December 13, 2014  

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