|Not scallops but oyster beds near us in Brittany|
Seafood is big in Brittany as it is in any area located near water. While I haven't had much of the fish yet, I do love shellfish. Breton lobster grilled with bubbly cream is really the best dish in the world. At our favorite restaurant, the first course is a Breton seafood platter, which according to regulations must have no less than five different shellfish. Itself, it is a meal. In Cancale, we love to go to the oyster market at the water's edge. We bring a bottle of wine and feast on platter after platter of oysters (for 4 Euros a dozen!). As we sit near the oyster farm, we throw our shells back onto the beach as many before us have done.
Scallops in Brittany are much smaller than the sea scallops that we can get in the States but they are so, so good. The season lasts from October through April and whether you are at the market or the grocery store, the fishmongers have loads of scallops, still in the shells just waiting for you. I have learned a few good phrases when ordering these to cook at home...meaning - that I want the fishmonger to shell them for me. We have a wonderful first course dish where we sear the scallops briefly and serve them with a garlic confit. Fantastic.
A village about thirty minutes away from us is the Scallop Capitol of Brittany. It is hugely regulated, which means that fishing for scallops is restricted to two 45-minute periods each week. This past weekend was the end of the season and the town of Erquy celebrated with a Fete de la Coquille, a scallop festival. I knew that we had to attend. Others in my family were not so sure.
It was a bit cloudy on Sunday and the parking for the festival started almost a mile away from the actual event. I used this as an excuse to see the village and to get some extra "steps" logged into my pedometer. We arrived around noon but already we saw people leaving toting mesh bags filled with scallops. Given that it was a festival dedicated to scallops, I knew that we could eat them but I was unaware that we could buy them fresh. I had to have a bag. Dear Husband was quiet and I knew that he was wondering, "What we would with an entire bag of fresh scallops?" No worry...I had a plan.
However, I had to find the scallops. We walked through the center of town where many of the shops were open, which is not the norm for a Sunday. We walked past seafood shops advertising scallops but I did not think that this was the place to buy. Finally, we reached the festival. It was a bit of a letdown....mainly just kiosks selling all sorts of things. A few restaurant tents were set up but mainly the restaurants along the port seem to be more "scallop" oriented. We made it to the edge of the port and there they were! In the fishery were scallops and scallops and scallops. At one corner, you could walk up, pay your 20 Euros and walk away with your mesh bag filled to the brim. Ladies were in the background, sorting and going through that morning's catch. In the center, were two gentlemen searing scallops and for 5 Euros, you had a plate of steaming scallops. At the far end, the fishmongers were selling fish caught in the bay. It was perfect.
|Dear Daughter having Scallops at the Festival|
Armed with my bag weighing 12 pounds, I carried "my baby" back up the hill and to the car. Upon return home, it took me almost an hour to extract each morsel from the shell. I have a new appreciation of the fishmongers. Since I collect scallop shells, I had to save most of them and my car is not happy with me now...the lingering smell of the sea permeates the carpet. Now, back in Belgium, I have a load of scallop shells. What will I do with them all???
|My haul...39 scallops!|
Would I go back to the Scallop Festival...of course. It was a little hokey but then again, I have been to a Radish Festival. I might do things a bit differently but I would still love to walk back to the car with my sac of scallops hauled from the boat that very morning.
That night, we had mussels as a first course. These mussels were ones that we had "plucked" from the rocks of our favorite beach the day before and they were incredible! For the main course, we had simple, pan-seared scallops and they just wonderful. Even Dear Daughter ate slowly that evening in order to savor every bite. My secret...we have enough for a second meal!
|Oh, and the cows are back!!! Where is Francis?|
Pan Seared Scallops
Get the fresher scallops you can find.
Make sure they are dry. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Season each scallop with salt and pepper. Place each scallop in the skillet and cook without moving for two minutes. Turn and cook for one minute more or until done. At the end, add a bit of butter and swirl. There you are done and you need nothing more!