The 5-minute essential guide to the French scallop (coquille Saint-Jacques)

For gourmets, this is the end all be all of seafoods. Fished in the English Channel and off Saint-Brieuc, the scallop, alias Pectem Maximus, is often the star of holiday meals. It can be eaten pan-fried, baked in its shell or carpaccio. No matter the preparation, you'll be salivating!

Norman and Breton

In the Norman language, they're called godefiche, a term used by the writer Gustave Flaubert in his novels, and krogenn Sant-Jakez in Breton. The scallop (and its shell) thrives in the cool waters of the Channel and the bay of the Seine just as much as those of the bay of Saint-Brieuc. Norman fishermen have earned recognition for the superior quality of this precious shell by obtaining several Label Rouge certifications, and Bretons by obtaining an IGP (for protected geographical indication). And in the Côtes-d´Armor, the scallop nicknamed the "Queen of the Bay" is known the world over!

Sustainable fishing

The scallop is only sold at fishmongers' stalls from October until May 15. For good reason: after this date, the reproduction period begins and the fishermen give the resource, natural and thus limited, time to reproduce.

During the season, Norman and Breton fishermen are subject to several rules: the boats are limited in number and size, the characteristics of the fishing gear (the dredge) are defined and their number per boat limited. Depending on the different fishing areas, specific days, fishing times, quotas and minimum catch size are also defined in order to preserve the resource.

With or without coral?

Once shelled, the scallop reveals its round and pearly muscle: the roe. This part is very popular with gourmets. The coral appears in the form of an orange comma and corresponds to the genital gland of this hermaphroditic mollusk. Depending on whether you like its salty taste, you can cook the shells with or without. Do not look for coral in the shells of the bay of Saint-Brieuc: there is none!

Celebrated by chefs

About ten Norman and Breton ports celebrate the scallop every year. On the menu of festivities: sea voyages, street shows, concerts and of course, tastings! And since 2018, the Normandy region and the Normandy fishing industry have initiated an annual gathering: la Grande Débarque (External link) . The objective: to put the scallop in the spotlight, with partner establishments- whether they are restaurants, bistros, fishmongers in shops or even at markets- from Normandy to Paris. The opportunity for starred chefs like Stéphane Carbone (External link) and Pierre Caillet (External link) to honor the shellfish by combining it with black rice, accompanied by a squash seed crumble (as in the photo above) or by stuffing it in a beignet, delicately highlighted with beet pulp.

Pilgrim's symbol

This delicious shell also has a strong symbolic value, in particular for the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela (Saint James de Compostelle). Originally, the scallops were collected from the beaches of Galicia and brought back as proof of the completion of the pilgrimmage. The pilgrims then hung the shell on their bag, hat, cape or bourdon (staff). The shell was a way to distinguish yourself from other travelers, to gain access to fountains or to ask for alms. When the shell appears on the lintel of a front door, it signifies that pilgrims are welcome.