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Moules (mussels) a la Mariniere
Moules a la Mariniere
San Diego is finally on their way to getting a Public Market (http://sandiegopublicmarket.com). You know, like in Seattle’s Pikes Place Market, San Francisco’s Ferry Building or London’s Borough Market. It is wonder it has taken this long to get started given our nearly year-round growing season, abundance of active farms and farmers and vibrant food scene. The grand opening occurred recently – Gary and I were there to check it out. I was thrilled to be interviewed by KPBS – see a clip here: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/sep/21/san-diego-public-market- - for which I am grateful for the additional exposure to my cooking blog!
While shopping we came across a local vendor of sustainable shellfish from nearby Carlsbad. Check out Carlsbad Aquafarm (http://carlsbadaquafarm.comYou can find them in many nearby farmer markets as well as Whole Foods & Sprouts. Other sustainable shellfish farms can likely be found in your area…just ask around or do a search on the Internet. Gary challenged me to feature mussels on my blog and “make something interesting”. So what is interesting? I really wanted to be able to taste the mussels and not camouflage the flavor so opted for a classic mussel recipe – and served it with frites – of course!
In France and Belgium, steamed mussels and crisp fries go together as naturally as fish and chips in England, and burgers and fries in the States. The combination is one of the world’s best comfort foods pairings; the juicy, sweet, slightly briny mussels playing off the earthiness of the fries, with an occasional dip of the fries into mayonnaise providing an added note of richness. This classic recipe calls for steaming the mussels in white wine, which lends acidity and creates a flavorful sauce.
Mussels, with their long, oval, blue-black shells and delicious pink-orange flesh are often called the poor man’s oyster. Before they can be cooked, mussels must have a rather long and careful cleaning process to remove all possible sand from their interiors, and to rid the shells of any slime and dirt, which might spoil the excellent juices they render as they steam open. Discard any mussels that are not firmly closed, or which feel lighter in weight than the rest. Discard also any too-heavy mussels, as they may be nothing but sand enclosed between two mussel shells.
Scrub each mussel very clean with a rough brush under running water. Then with pliers or a small knife, scrape off the tuft of hairs, or beard, which protrudes from between one side of the closed shell halves. Set the mussels in a basin or bucket of fresh water for an hour or two so they will disgorge their sand and also lose a bit of their saltiness. I like to add flour to the soaking water on the theory that while the mussels eat the flour and become fatter and more succulent, they are at the same time disgorging their sand more thoroughly. Use 1/3 cup of flour for each 2 quarts of water, beating the flour and a bit of water with a whip first, to mix it thoroughly. Then, after soaking the mussels, lift them into a colander, and rinse them in cold water and they are ready to cook. This should be done shortly before the planned cooking time.
Swimming in flour water
Time for a trim!
As the mussels take very little time to cook, it is prudent to have ready any accompaniments. I served our mussels with freshly baked fries and mayonnaise to which I added a single smashed garlic clove, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to boost the flavor.
- 2 ½ lb mussels, debearded and scrubbed as above
- ¾ C dry white wine
- 2 Tb unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
- 1½ leeks, light green and white parts, cut into ¼”-thick slices
- ½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tb parsley – optional garnish
Heat a 12-inch, high-sided skillet over high heat. Add 2½ lb cleaned mussels, ¾ C dry white wine, 2 Tb butter, 3 chopped celery ribs, 1½ sliced leeks and ½ chopped onion; season with salt and pepper, and cover skillet. Cook, occasionally shaking skillet, until all mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Before serving, toss any mussels that have not opened.
Then the mussels, shells and all, are dipped out into soup plates, and the cooking liquor is poured over them. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley as garnish. Each lucky recipient removes mussels one by one from their shells with fingers or a fork and discards the shells into a side dish. In addition, provide a soup spoon for drinking up the mussel juices, a big napkin and a finger bowl. Along with the mussels serve your freshly baked fries with the doctored mayonnaise for dipping of the fries.
Mussels are best served with Champagne (of course!) or a chilled light dry white wine such as Muscadet, dry Graves, or one of the Pouillys. This is such an simple and elegant meal, I do not know why it has not become a weekly one!