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Lesson 20 Scallop Parmetier

According to the French chefs at Cordon Bleu, Antoine-Augustine Parmentier discovered the potato.  This is not exactly true; rather he was a big proponent of potatoes.  Originally in France potatoes were considered lethal foods to humans as they caused diseases such as leprosy.   During the Seven Years war, between 1754 and 1763, Parmentier spent time in a Prussian prison where he was fed nothing but potatoes for months.

On his release, he returned to France and campaigned on behalf of the spud and convinced the Paris faculty of medicine to declare the potato edible for humans in 1772.  Just think, had he not been successful there would be no French fries.  Mon Dieu!  To honor the man, he is immortalized on French menus throughout the country for his love of the potato and when you see a description of a dish on a French menu with the word Parmentier included it means there will be potatoes on your plate.

The Parmentier we cooked for this recipe featured layers of mashed potato and scallop beards cooked with minced shallots and a duxelles, finely chopped white button mushrooms.   This was the first time I opened a scallop which is a simple procedure compared to oysters!  The main white muscle that we eat is the adductor muscle.  The beards are known as the “tripe” de St. Jacques or the intestinal tract of the scallop.  The orange coral is also a delicacy and is the ovary of the scallop.  That’s the sum of the parts on your plate!

The beards take a long time to cook, almost and hour, as they are the toughest part of the scallop.  To braise the beards, we sautéed shallots in a little butter, added the chopped beards and a little water with a paper lid on top to hold in the moisture.  Checking the water frequently to ensure it has not dried out is key.  The mushroom duxelle is added near the end of the cooking, the whole mixture is seasoned and ready to layer with a potato mash.  A strange dish to be sure, but I suppose it uses up all of the edible parts of the scallop.

The scallop was sautéed in butter on a medium high heat.  Scallops take no time at all to cook, should have a golden color on each side and be served medium doneness rather than cooked all the way through or they are like rubber.  Chewing rubber is very disagreeable.

Will I make a Parmentier again?  Unlikely, but I am happy that Antoine-Auguste convinced the French to eat potatoes as I’m rather found of French fries.  🙂

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