National Coquilles Saint Jacques Day
May 16th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
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While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.

Come out of your shell, mollusk lovers - May 16 is National Coquilles Saint Jacques Day!!

Scallops, shallots and mushrooms hang out on the half-shell and get a sumptuous bath of wine, possibly with a massive lashing of cream. Then they're topped with a little Gruyere and perhaps a dusting of breadcrumbs, broil and voila - exceptionally elegant supper is served.

St. James the Greater employed scallop shells as his emblem (legend has it that he saved a knight who'd fallen into the water and emerged covered in scallop shells), and devotees making pilgrimages to his shrine in Santiago de Compostela, Spain would pin them to their clothing in tribute.

There's no need to get your favorite duds all fishy, though. Julia Child in her classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" offered two different variations of the dish - à la Parisienne, wherein the scallops are poached in white wine, then blended into a butter, egg and cream sauce, and à la Provençale, wherein the scallops are floured and sautéed, then cooked in wine and herbs and topped with cheese.

Whether you're honoring Provence or Paris, this glorious gratinée is something of a showstopper. As chef and author Anthony Bourdain told Epicurious, "My mother made it for special occasions only. I remember being terrifically impressed that she served it in scallop shells. I yearned for this dish - knowing it only by smells - and was delighted when I finally turned old enough to sit down to eat with the adults. This was the reward."

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