I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going to Ireland to find French food inspiration, but I was in Kerry last weekend, and that’s just what happened. I was in a little pub called The Blue Bull in the blink-and-you-missed-it town of Sneem, and I ordered what I thought was very usual: scallops mornay. I don’t often mix seafood and dairy (excepting, of course, cream in my mussels), but I wanted to something at once light and decadent, so I ordered it.
I had the most gorgeous sea scallops and roe, toasted in their shells, on a bed of piped mashed potatoes, under a bronzed blanket of cheddar cheese béchamel, or mornay. And I thought, what a great idea.
Here is my version: sweet, tender bay scallops and puny Paris mushrooms, broiled under a bubbling blanket of béchamel laced with nutty Gruyère. Serve it right from the oven with a handful of parsley and a steaming baguette, and you have this incredibly rustic, simple, unusual, and delicious dinner that’s, as usual on French in a Flash, really easy, but worthy of company.
Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 6 ounces baby button, or Paris, mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 knifepoint of piment d’Espelette or cayenne
- 1 knifepoint freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons grated Gruyère, plus extra for topping the gratins
- 12 ounces bay scallops
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Arrange the oven rack in the second position from the top. Preheat the broiler. In a small nonstick sautépan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and mushrooms. Toast, stirring often, until the mushrooms are golden brown. They don’t need to be cooked through. Set aside.
To make the mornay sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour, and cook over low heat for 1 minute. Add the milk, and whisk. Continue whisking with the pan over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and when you run your finger down the back of that spoon, the mixture stays separated—about 5 minutes. Then add the piment, nutmeg, and 3 tablespoons Gruyère and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Lightly oil two wide ovensafe dishes. Mix the scallops and the mushrooms together, half of each in each dish, and season with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer across each dish. Pour half of the mornay sauce over each dish, and top with a tablespoon or so of extra grated Gruyère. Broil for 10 minutes.print this recipe