Coquilles St. Jacques

lb bay scallops
1/2 – 3/4 cup dry French vermouth (or any good dry white wine)
A generous tablespoon of minced scallion (white part)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 generous tablespoon cornstarch blended with enough cold water to make a smooth paste (for thickening)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Grated Swiss cheese – a small sprinkling for each serving

Line a baking sheet with crumpled foil, and arrange 6 clean scallop shells on top (see NOTES below). Then put the bay scallops, vermouth, scallion, and salt in a non-stick, 10-inch diamete skillet. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, then immediately lower the heat, and let simmer until the scallops are just springy to the touch – about 2 minutes.

Pour the scallops and all of their cooking juices into a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium-size bowl. Return the cooking juices to the skillet, and tip the scallops into the (now empty) bowl. Add the cream to the cooking juices, and bring them to a boil. Then add the cornstarch mixture, and whisk until thickened – about 15 seconds. Off heat, whisk in the paprika.

Tip the sauce over the scallops, and stir gently to combine. Divide the scallop mixture between the shells, and top them off with a light sprinkling of the grated cheese. (If you are not planning to broil the scallops right away, cover and refrigerate them for several hours. Remove the cover before broiling.) Broil until the cream sauce thickens, and the cheese colors attractively – 2-3 minutes. Serve at once.

NOTES: For the best presentation, be sure to serve Coquille St. Jacques in scallop shells. The shells are available at most kitchen-supply stores. Otherwise, use a baking or gratin dish that is just large enough to hold the scallop mixture.

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