falling leaves in Paris and autumn simplicity on your plate:
scallop “macarons” with chanterelles and thyme
I have only seen it snow once in Paris and the snow didn’t stick. This year while Paris has seen a couple rainy and “see your breath” chilly days, overall it has been beautiful and 5 or 6 degrees Celsius warmer than usual for late November. Parisians have been out in droves, profiting from the gift of warmer weather. Although the holidays are approaching, right now it is not holiday decor which covers the city, but blankets of golden leaves. Watching Parisians play in the leaves (and the city workers haul mounds of the leaves to compost piles) I thought of the poem Gathering Leaves by Robert Frost where he talks about the lightness and the “harvest” of falling leaves. I wanted to “harvest” leaves. In particular, I wanted to capture the color scheme and lightness of these golden leaves and the flavors of autumn and put it on a plate in a simply way. That thought inspired this week’s simple pleasure: seared scallop “macarons” with chanterelles and fresh thyme.
Sometimes I run into difficulties posting food blogs when I am in France. Beyond the difference in measurements, temperatures, and cuts of meat (that is easy to overcome), the greater difficulty is: (1) that there are often different foods in the two markets, and (2) the same food may not taste the same in the States or be something that the American palates like.
For example, in Paris you have to hunt for a cranberry. Brussels sprouts, persimmons, and winter squash are minimal here and not at all the predominate abundance you have in the States. In Paris, the markets are filled with mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts, apples and pears, same as in the States except there are varieties in the markets that we do not have. There is large supply of white asparagus (although smaller than the log-like white asparagus of the spring) as well as fresh lychees on still the sprig. Quinze is popular (but not often used in America) and the season for figs is longer here.
In addition to pears and mushrooms, one thing France and the States have in common in the autumn markets are scallops (Coquilles Saint Jacques). Scallops are in season from October to about April. If you have ever seen them in water, they flutter in the ocean and look like falling leaves. Harvest leaves.
A scallop is a bivalve mollusk and the name “scallop” is said to come from the French word “escalope” (think thin slices of veal), referring to the thin shells. There are two parts of the scallop which are edible, the muscle and the roe (or coral). The rest of the things surrounding the muscle are the digestive and waste track, et cetera. Pulling all of that off is just as simple as de-veining a shrimp. However, in French markets you have the choice of cleaning the scallops yourself or they will do them. In the States, this is often done for you and I rarely see the roe still attached.
I did not add a sauce to this recipe for the very purpose of keeping it simple. The mushrooms take about 8 minutes on the stove and the scallops take 4 minutes to sear. In addition to the simplicity of the recipe, it is light in calories as well. A 3 ½ ounce serving of scallops contains about 112 calories. One cup of chanterelle mushrooms is about 17 calories and an entire pear has about 86 calories (here each serving has 3-4 slices only). If you have a nut oil (such as walnut or hazelnut) or truffled oil, drizzle a little on the seared scallops just before service. These flavor-enhanced oils scream autumn and pair nicely with the warm, earthy flavors of the mushrooms, thyme and pear.
From the golden colors of chanterelles and pears to floating scallops, I give you this photo montage of autumn in Paris (with the words of Robert Frost’s poem) and a companion recipe to put a little Parisian falling leaf lightness on your plate.
et bon appétit (de Paris) !