I made this tasty dish as we were finishing up packaging the last of this season scallops for the freezer. The skies were grey and cold, and it was spitting snow. But inside, as I basked in the warmth from the oven, my mouth watered as I envisioned all meals we’ll be enjoying this summer with our stash of creamy pink, sweet bivalve mollusks.
Scallops are a luxury item for us. We enjoy them just barely cooked, usually sautéed or grilled. However, their sweet, succulent flavor and rich, meaty texture is delicious when prepared in a casserole like Baked Scallops in Mornay Sauce.
A Mornay sauce is a Béchamel or white sauce, to which cheese has been added, usually equal parts of Swiss or Gruyere and Parmesan. The Béchamel sauce is one of the four classic French sauces, and is one that every cook can easily learn to prepare.
Start by making a roux of melted butter and flour. Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour. It will quickly become quite thick. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk, until you have a thickened sauce. Some folks like to warm the milk, and find it easier to whisk into the roux. The more butter and flour you use per cup of milk, the thicker the sauce.
If at first you fail to produce a smooth sauce and don’t like the lumps, throw it out and try again. Once you get the knack of it, this basic white sauce is really easy to make and the culinary possibilities, like Mornay or cheese sauce, are delicious. Plus, when used as a substitute for heavy cream, the nutritional advantages are less fat calories.
Scallops Baked in Mornay Sauce is a simple but elegant recipe that would be great for entertaining. Prepare the casseroles in advance, pop in the oven when the guests arrive, and enjoy a glass of white wine!
Baked Scallops in Mornay Sauce
- 1 pound Maine scallops
- 8 ounces mushrooms finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup grated cheese (Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Gruyere)
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Remove the muscle from the scallops, rinse and pat dry. Divide between 4 individual ramekins or small casserole dishes.
- To prepare the sauce: In a saucepan on top of the stove, gently melt one tablespoon of butter. Whisk in the flour. Slowly add the milk, whisking, and cook until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the cheese and stir until melted. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- Sauté the chopped mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter until they give up their water. Divide the mushrooms evenly between the scallop casseroles. Cover each casserole with about 1/3 cup of sauce. Sprinkle the tops with chopped fresh parsley. Bake in a 375-degree oven until bubbly and the scallops are cooked, about 20 minutes.
- To complete the meal, serve with brown rice or a baked potato, peas, and dilled baby carrots.