Scallops a la Grenobloise


“A la Grenobloise” literally means “in the style of Grenoble,’ a city at the feet of the French Alps, host to the 1968 winter olympics, home to a number of large universities and research centers, even a particle accelerator.  Grenoble is in the Rhone-Alpes region, and is capitol of the district, Isere.

Enough geography.  Why any dish that includes browned butter, capers, lemon and croutons is considered “Grenobloise,” is still unclear.

Anthony Bourdain makes a skate a la grenobloise in Les Halles Cookbook.  Martha Stewart has a sole version.  My grenobloise experiments were inspired Jaques Pepin’s scallops “of Grenoble.”  Each author/chef defines grenobloise – lemon, capers, blah, blah –  but no one says why Grenoble.  Elizabeth David, in French Cooking, says nothing about grenobloise, neither does Richard Olney in Simple French Cooking.  Even my beloved Auberge of The Flowering Hearth, the cookbook from the mademoiselles who once managed a hotel just miles from the city of Grenoble – where they marketed – say nothing of this supposedly “traditional” way to prepare fish.

I can only guess that sometime after the 1970’s when “Auberge” was published but before Martha Stewart went to jail, some chef in a popular Grenobloise restaurant branded this perfect combination of flavor and texture.  Lemons make it bright.  Capers make it briny.  Croutons make it crunchy.  Pepin covers all in a suave sauce of mushrooms and butter, sparing the recipe a fate of spa cuisine.  It’s a step not to skip.

I spent the long weekend buying scallops, trying various recipes and perfecting “the scallop sear,” before I finally prepared this.  It’s a little bouquet of tastes and textures.  Grenoble, be proud.


Scallops a la Grenobloise

serves 4 for a main course


3 slices white bread
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 lemon
1 pound large scallops (about 16), rinsed under cold water to remove any sand
1 1/2 tablespoons butter + 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons drained capers
1/2 cup diced (1/2-inch) white mushrooms
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into a 1/2-inch dice and toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Set aside.

Peel the lemon, removing the skin and the white pith underneath. Cut between the membranes to remove totally clean segments of lemon flesh. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces until you have about 2 tablespoons diced lemon flesh.

Remove any abductor muscles still attached to the scallops. Sprinkle the scallops with the salt, pepper and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the scallops. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the pan, and allow it to swirl around the scallops.  Flip the scallops, and cook for another 2 minutes.  They should be nicely browned. Arrange 4 scallops on each of four serving plates and sprinkle on the lemon pieces, capers, and bread cubes.

Heat the butter in a small skillet and add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter browns lightly (this is called noisette butter). Add the vinegar. Spoon the sauce over the scallops, sprinkle the parsley on top, and serve.

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