Drunken Scallops

I grew up in a seafood-loving household. You name it, if it came out of the water, we loved it—trout, shrimp, catfish, tuna, skatefish, and more. Scallops, however, are arguably my mother’s favourite water-sourced ingredient, so she served it as often as the family finances allowed. The best scallops I ever consumed, however, were fresh from the sea in the Moroccan coastal town of Essaouira, at a small plastic-tented dockside booth. We chose each scallop by hand from a basket, watched them be shelled, and then prepared to eat, some “cooked” in citrus juice, others smokily grilled; my pleasure in that moment remains strong. So when my husband announced he was going to make a special scallop recipe out of Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1961 cookery book, La Cuisine de France (Orion), I practically rushed to set the table.

Called coquilles saint-jacques au vermouth (scallops with vermouth), it was a mouthwatering delight. Once again our daughter found something to dislike about the dish—loved the mushrooms, loathed the scallops—which surprised me. She is a child who can devour a platter of sushi and sashimi without blinking even one of her twinkling brown eyes and grins like a Cheshire cat when she spots pâté de fois gras. Oh, well, we’ll be testing her tastebuds again and again as this blog progresses, hopefully educating her palate even more. But trust me: Mme. de Toulouse-Lautrec’s vermouth-soused scallops are swell, especially with some sea-salted spinach on the side.

Coquilles saint-jacques au vermouth, hot and ready for its sauce.

Coquilles saint-jacques au vermouth, sauced and ready to serve.


SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961)



1-1/2 pints scallops

1 cup vermouth

3/4 pound mushrooms

7 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup white wine

1 onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon flour

3 eggs yolks

3/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper



Cook the scallops with the vermouth in a small saucepan for 10 minutes.


Wash, trim, and slice the mushrooms and sauté them in half the butter for 5 minutes.


In another saucepan cook the wine and onion together for 15 minutes.


Heat the rest of the butter in a larger saucepan and stir in the flour. Add the wine with the onions and stir until smooth. Strain the broth from the scallops into the pan and continue stirring. Season with salt and pepper.


Beat the egg yolks and cream until blended and add that to the sauce. Reheat but do not let the sauce boil.


Put the scallops in the center of a heated serving dish. Surround with the mushrooms and pour the sauce over everything. Serve very hot.


14 comments on “Drunken Scallops

  1. home before dark says:

    Being in the landlocked tundra, fresh seafood is always semantic thing! However anything with butter, egg yolks and heavy cream would have to be delicious…on anything! Perhaps daughter could write her own critique to your food stories. Always curious about the way children respond to food.

  2. Elizabeth F says:

    Mmmmm! Yet another great dinner and another recipe we want to try! What a great combination of flavours.

    Your poor little girl! She is such a trooper.

    Our little boy (ten years old) likes shrimp and scallops, but this was not always the case. We noticed one day that he did not like them if they had been cooked in liquid for any length of time. The texture changed and they became more firm. Perhaps this may be why your daughter did not like the scallops, because she seemed to enjoy the flavours in the rest of the dish.

    What if you wiped dry the scallops and sauteed them on both sides in a bit of butter and olive oil, over a skillet preheated to med-high? They colour up beautifully and cook up sweet and juicy, and very tender. Remove to a dish, then add the vermouth to the same pan to cook out the alcohol. Continue with the rest of the recipe and add the cooked scallops to the finished sauce.

    I hope your little girl will try scallops again and find she loves them! Someone once told me children have such sensitive palates because they are born with the same amount of taste buds they will have as adults. They’re just more concentrated on the relatively small area of their tongues.

    Kudos to you both for continuing to feed your daughter the same food you eat. It’s no wonder she has such a sophisticated palate!

  3. soodie says:

    would not ever have thought to combine mushrooms with scallops in that manner. i always tend to think citrusy. bit it sounds just delish!

    only thing — and i mean the only food — i have a hard time with is catfish *blech* i grew up on it living near lakes and the dirty Missouri river where cars and dead bodies were reportedly hidden *blech* my parents loved catfish. restaurants would often serve it with the head and tail still on, the fried body curling like a potato chip *blech*. (all the *blechs* are my gag reflex.) i do hope your daughter comments sometime. her opinions would be a delight to read.

  4. Erica Walch says:

    This was one of my favorite foods as a child, but my mother made it a little differently — everything was cooked together (mushrooms and scallops and cream sauce) and was scooped in to special large sea shells (used only for this dish) and topped with bread crumbs, then broiled.

    It was a bubbling perfection of buttery bread crumbs and creamy food.

  5. Jérôme says:

    A well known French chef once said: “when you think your scallops are cooked, it’s already too late!”
    I used just to poach (is it the correct term)them in boiling vermouth with “échalottes”. Served with lamb’s lettuce, it’s delicious!

    Can you find/ buy scallops with their roes (coral)? It makes them even more tastier when cooked…

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alison Feldmann, Tara Aveilhe. Tara Aveilhe said: RT @TeenAngster: Really into the Aesthete Cooks' take on old recipes for modern times. Drunken scallops, anyone? http://bit.ly/8aQ9Vk […]

  7. teresa says:

    did you use white or red vermouth? Looks like maybe white?

  8. Do you have a good recipe for skate? There’s some on sale at my fishmonger’s and I’d love to try it.

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