Scallops were never something I’d thought much about: I recognized their white, cylindrical forms and enjoyed their smooth, rich texture and caramelized bits at restaurants. But growing up nowhere near the sea, I had no idea what the shell of a scallop looked like or really how it ended up on my plate. So when I found myself signing up for a cooking class that focused on preparing scallops two ways, I didn’t really know what to expect. And since it took place at the école de cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris, I prayed that my long-dormant French would come back to life well enough to follow the teacher’s instructions.
Our instructor Mark Williams, who led our eight-person class, is a French-trained chef from Wales—but our shared English-speaking heritage something I was not aware of until the end of the lesson, so well did his demonstrations lead me through the lesson. He talked our small group through splitting the scallops from their large, barnacled shells; reserving “la barbe,” or the surrounding ligaments, to make a rich stock; rinsing the meat of the scallops thoroughly to remove the sand; and nestling them together to preserve their shape, putting us all to work on different tasks after methodically walking us through each step.
The culmination of the lesson was a delicious meal of scallops two ways: first, chilled, thinly sliced raw scallops, served over poached leeks and with shaved truffles; then hot, cooked in the pan, stuffed with slivers of black truffle, served with a richly delicious sauce made from our homemade stock. We toasted our meal with a glass or two of white Burgundy and took our new skills home to try and replicate… with or without the shell.
École de Cuisine, Alain Ducasse
64, rue de Ranelagh (métro ligne 9: Ranelagh)
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 90 91 00