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Mar 9, 2007 10:30 PM

Coquilles St. Jacques - what DOES it mean?

Someone on the SF board asked for restaurants serving coquilles St. Jacques which led to a question ... what type of preparation ... all that 'coquilles St. Jacques' means is 'scallop' in French.

Well, until that comment, all coquilles St. Jacques meant to me for most of my life was what is defined in this link ...

"[koh-KEEL sahn-ZHAHK; koh-KEE sahn-ZHAK] Classically served in a scallop shell, this special dish consists of scallops in a creamy wine sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and browned under a broiler."

When I look at lots of recipes in English, that seems to be what gets repeated ... scallops, wine, cheese, cream, mushrooms ... although one recipe gussied it up using black chanterelles ... sounds like an idea

I did find a lot of cool trivia about 'coquilles St. Jacques'. Themost repeated story is that a knight was saved from drowning by St. James. The knight emerged from the water, covered with shells ... and so the phrase "shells of St. James" also emerged.

Even found a recipe on a Catholic website that said since July 25th is St. James day, what better day to eat the dish

Other foods to eat on St James Day

"whoever consumed oysters on the day would not go without money for the year"

But I digress.

This really cool blog by someone living in France says that coquilles St. Jacques are a specific variety of scallop which is why menus specify that variety. Check out the other food links on the blog like markets. Very interesting info.

He mentions an old cookbook he has called ' La Cuisine du poisson' where there are 10 preparations of coquilles St. Jacques.

So, I would think if you said coquilles St. Jaques in any Enlish-speaking country ... there's a classic prep in mind and no further explanation necessary. While the only country that the preparation would need to be specified is in France.

Correct or incorrect?

SF Discussion

Gratuitous link about scallops in general

And some food-related trivia from the above link ... i never knew all this stuff about scallops before ...

"The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc. where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened"

Interesting modern pilgrimages, scallops and St. James Day

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  1. I think you're right about France being the one place where you'd need to specify preparation. When we were at a very nice seafood place between Nice and Monte Carlo, I was a bit surprised to be served a scallop dish I did not recognize, after having ordered Coquilles St-Jacques, though it was terrifically good, and then later I noted that some of my French cookbooks do in fact use that term to describe the scallop itself. Of course, I haven't travelled through very many countries looking for scallops, though if anyone wanted to subsidize this research I'd be happy to accept the burden...

    1. scallops, lit., St. James shells, after the scallop shells worn as badges by pilgrims to shrines of St. James

      1. Very interesting info on this dish, who knew it had such history. Many years ago I copied the name of this recipe from one of my books onto a little chalkboard to stand next to my "chef Pierre pig" that was popular many years ago. Coquilles Saint-Jacques au Cavier (sic, French spelling?) was the dish. I never tried it, now I think I will...good post rworange

        1. Coquilles St. Jacques meaning scallops made me start. In German they are "Jakobsmuscheln"--litterally "James shells"--which is litterally "coquilles St. Jacques." I also thought this name has to do with the mideaval pilgrims taking the Road of St. James to the Shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain (again, Santiago or San Diego means St. James). Galicia is a region famous for scallops, too.

          1. I always thought that coquilles meant scallops and that St. Jacques was the method of preparation.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chocolatetartguy

              Coquilles simply means shells. For St Jacques (St James in English), see

              Edit: I see rworange already provided the link I posted... but I can't delete my post, so sorry.