I used to visit the same small island off the outer banks of North Carolina each summer growing up. One summer in particular, a small “finished porch” of a restaurant opened, called The Pelican.
The menu was an attempt at French refinement in a small fishing village of 500 permanent residents and sadly, lasted only 1 season. They offered a signature dish called “Seafood Coquille.”
(Actually, Coquille means to serve fish in its original shell, but this dish was served in a plain old gratin dish. Many things at this restaurant were lost in translation, but that added to its charm)
The Owner/Waiter describer seafood coquille as a stew of fish in cream sauce. “We make it with clam juice, clam juice, clam, clam, clam and clam.” A crust of mashed potatoes was added on top and the whole thing was broiled and served bubbling. It was an instant hit with my father and I believe we ate it 4 times during our two-week trip.
With a little help from Ina Garten’s “Seafood Gratin” recipe as a base, I decided the weather was right to attempt my own, decided lower fat, version.
Pelican-inspired Seafood Coquille
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup clam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Small pinch saffron
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 a small tomato, chopped finely into a chunky puree (should make about 3 tbsp)
sea salt, 3 green pepper corns, 4 or 5 fennel seed, a pinch of celery seed, all ground together
6 large sea scallops
1/2 lb monk fish fillet, cubed
6-12 medium shrimp, de-veined but retaining a shell
3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp flour
1/4-1/2 cup light butter milk
2 medium leeks, rinsed and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 a fresh sour dough bread, sliced and toasted lightly
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra to garnish
4 gratin dishes or one medium baking dish
Add chicken stock, clam juice, wine, tomatoes, saffron, spices and 1 clove minced garlic to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Working in batches cook shrimp, scallops and monk fish one at a time, then set aside.
After fish has been poached, remove shrimp peels, then add all fish to a baking dish or divide among 4 gratin dishes.
Continue to boil stock for 5 minutes until reduced.
Combine 2 tbsp butter (I used bummel and brown) and 2 tbsp flour with a fork. Stir into stock and whisk until combined. Add butter milk being careful not to make stock too runny – should be the consistency of a thin gravy. Turn off heat.
In a small skillet saute leeks and carrots in remaining tbsp of butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Pour evenly over fish.
Pour stock over fish and veggies being careful not to disrupt anything too badly.
In a food processor, pulse toasted sour dough bread, 1 clove minced garlic and a handful or parsley until combined into bread crumbs. Spread bread crumbs evenly over each dish and sprinkle with a little olive oil to help brown.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until bread crumbs look golden and casserole is bubbling.
Serve warm with additional sour dough bread for dipping.
Next time I would make the stock a bit thicker, but overall this was great. I didn’t miss the cream at all.
I would recommend making a garlic mashed-potato crust for the top rather than bread crumbs to really make this dish amazing.