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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Baked Scallops Day

We love scallops, so National Baked Scallops Day isn’t a hard day for us to fit in to our eating schedule. Scallops are found in all the world’s oceans. They are a member of the oyster family, Ostreida, and have the familiar central adductor muscle that attaches their two shells. The adductor muscle of scallops is larger and more developed than that of oysters, because the little dudes are active swimmers. Not just content to hang around at the bottom of the ocean, waiting to be scooped up, they exercise their inner Michael Phelps (or does Michael Phelps exercise his inner scallop?) by rapidly opening and closing their shells. Another fun fact: Scallops are hermaphrodites, and switch sexes. Both sexes produce roe. So, here’s an example in the animal kingdom where dads can give birth (if you call expelling your roe into the water, where it is fertilized by by some other scallop’s expelled spermatozoa, and then sinks to the bottom of the ocean to hatch, giving birth).   scallops-260.jpg
Bake me tonight.
Scallops were traditionally caught by dredging (dragging) the seabed, but scuba divers now catch the quality ones—hence the term “diver scallops” or “dayboat scallops” (the divers go out just for the day) on menus of better restaurants. If you saw or read “The Perfect Storm,” you understand that seafood can spend two or more weeks on ice in the hold of a boat before getting to port. Diver scallops get to market quickly, and thus are so much are fresher and tastier. Now, onto baked scallops: Perhaps the most famous baked scallop dish is Coquilles Saint-Jacques, translated as Saint James’s scallops, a rich mixture of butter, cream, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, baked in a scallop shell. The scallop shell is the emblem of Saint James the Greater. The saint’s association with the scallop shell is based on a legend that he once rescued a knight covered in scallops, or alternatively, that while his remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water and emerged covered in scallop shells. As a result, Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, often wore a scallop shell symbol on their clothing. You can easily find a delicious recipe for Coquilles Saint-Jacques online (we use the one from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child. It’s easy to make—pick up the ingredients and enjoy it tonight. You can buy the scallop shells in any cookware store (including chain stores), and they’re useful for serving other foods, from desserts to hors d’oeuvres (olives, for example). And of course, you can serve the dish on any plate—scallop shells not required!





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