Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shell Shock

 Gifts from the Sea

Cartier Building rendered by Alexandre Genaille

In 1917 Pierre Cartier bartered a string of pearls worth one million dollars for the
six story Beaux Arts mansion on Fifth Avenue that is still today 
La Maison Cartier in New York City

That was "a lot of clams"


pioneered the modern techniques for cultivating spherical pearls in the mid 20th century, 
and more importantly
                                  convincing the general public of their value- a public relations coup !
What had been the rarest of gems became widely available and the value dropped dramatically 

That rope of pearls worth a million dollars in 1917 sold at auction in 1957 
for  only $151,000.00

Not chump change but a far cry from their original trade value

Pearls, both natural or cultivated,  are formed when an irritating foreign object becomes imbedded in the flesh of the oyster.  To protect itself from the irritation the mollusk secretes layer upon layer of Nacer (aka mother-of-pearl) forming the irredescent treasures.


100 millions pounds of oysters are consumed annually in the United States

Oyster Shell Chandelier
Currey and Company

Crushed oyster shells are the correct rolling surface for Bocci Ball courts

As early as  1200 BC the Chinese began using shells as currency .  Perfect shells have been used that way throughout history till as recently as the mid 20th century.


Finding unchipped perfection is not easy as the 
breakage from pounding surf takes it's toll

Coral and shells combine 
with antique Chinese porcelein
for a priceless display
Shells are ageless

They look the same today as they did thousands of years ago
Fossils in Kansas limestone fenceposts are evidence that ocean once
covered the continent of North America
limestone fenceposts make very effective lintels

Sea Shells carved in limestone on the entry 
surround of the New York Yacht Club featured 
in my last journal entry

An inspirational melange of shells from oceans around the world

She Sells Sea Shells....


Shells are OBVIOUSLY inspirational as well as ageless


Masks created by Manfredo Settala in the 17th century
 look totally new
as does the shellwork folie  built in the 1770's 
by Jane Pownoll with shells
brought to England from the Carribean

A shell head fountain spews water into a giant clam shell
Haute-de-Seine, France

A Nautilus Cup mounted in gold and silver
Germany 1580-1610

A Tiffany broach from an 1880 catalog

The almost perfect symmetry and coloration of the scallop shell
appears in art ...
Sandro Boticelli

from paintings...

19th century Ventian Grotto Chair
...to furniture

... to silver

Shown on 100% FELINI linen velvet
available by the yard in three colors

But you don't have to be an artist to appreciate 
 shells in your surroundings .

I love their natural colorations and textures

They are Naturals

The Perfect Soap Dish (even if a bit cliche)

Re-usable Placecards

Scallop shells- Abalone shells and Blister pearls 
embossed into a wallcovering

or just added interest - look at those fabulous shapes

The scallop shell became the symbol of the crusaders'
Order of St. James
(AKA St. Jacques)

May 16th is Coquilles St Jacques Day

I have no idea who came up with that one ...
but it's a good thing it only comes once a year


given the cholesterol content of this  recipe

The recipe looks long but it's actually very easy and can be 
made ahead of time so you can look like the ultimate host

Serves 4 as an entree   6 as a first course

Preheat oven to 375

1 pound fresh bay scallops
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 Cup dry white wine
12 peppercorns
3 green onions chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tbls. fresh lemon juice + 4-6 thin slices for garnish
1 cup water

1 Cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 Cup cream (1/2 and 1/2 will work)
2 egg yolks   (optional but why cut back at this point)
3 tablespoons butter   plus more for greasing the shells and dotting the gratin
3 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons brandy (optional) more works for me
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 Tbls Panko or homemade bread crumbs
1 Tblsp. melted butter
4 Tblsp. chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Large scallop shells available from cooking stores or on line 
Rock salt

Butter the insides of the scallop shells and set aside on a cookie sheet
Prepare serving plates by lining them with rock salt which will provide a stable cradle for the scallop shells and it also looks great

In a pot mix the wine , water, peppercorns, scallions,  bay leaf and lemon juice.  
Bring to a boil and add the scallops reducing the heat to a low simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes.

You can add the mushrooms to the broth and cook or they are way tastier if you saute them in a little butter and olive oil and set aside.

Remove the scallops from the liquid and set aside 

Strain the liquid and reduce to about 1 Cup.  Reserve

Melt 3 Tbls. butter over medium heat.  
When bubbles subside add the flour and whisk till all is incorporated.

Slowly add the strained liquid until it becomes a smooth creamy sauce. 
Mix in 1/4 C of the Gruyere and mix till fully melted and blended

Add cayenne , salt , and brandy.


Beat the two egg yolks into the cream and slowly add  into the cream, mixing with a whisk.
Taste for seasoning and add as necessary

Cut each scallop in half across the width.  
Combine with the mushrooms and mix gently with 2/3 of the sauce

Spoon mixture evenly divided into the buttered shells

You can make recipe ahead to this point and refrigerate covered for 1 day+. 

Sprinkle with the rest of the shredded cheese and the Panko bread crumbs . 
Drizzle with the melted butter and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until bubbly.

Turn oven to broil and continue cooking about 3 minutes until golden brown.

Serve nestled on beds of rock salt garnished with a slice of lemon and some chopped chives or parsley

Bon Appetit !

1 comment:

Julie O'Connor said...

So inspiring! I wish I'd seen your post before my recent trip to the Florida Keys. I would certainly have come home with a few shell treasures.