I imagine these as an appetizer, a bite out of the shell, dripping with cream that is flavored with shallots, butter and white wine and the broth that cooked the mussels, enjoyed with a glass of white wine, a piece of bread, and a nice dinner conversation.
If you are a new reader, every week I put my olive oil flask down and pick up butter and cream, as I cook my way through Le Cordon Bleu at Home with a few other on-line. Cooking french, though is much more than butter and cream. It’s shallots and wine, and a particular aroma that permeates the kitchen that says special, elegant, french.
A few weeks ago, I made my first mussels for a very similar dish, Coquilles Saint Jacques Dieppoise, Shrimp with Mussels and Scallops in Cream Sauce. They were promptly cooked as soon as they arrived home from the store. But, yesterday, I accidentally killed a few mussels before I had a chance to prepare them, but I didn’t realize that until today, when I returned to the store to purchase more live mussels for an Italian recipe I’m going to cook tomorrow. The fish monger told me to make sure I immediately take them out of the white butcher paper and place them in a bowl and stick them in the fridge so they breathe. Otherwise, they die. Now, why didn’t I know this? I didn’t bother to say to him, “oh, that’s why a few were opened when I went to steam them, and I was blaming you for selling me dead mussels.” No, I just kept that to myself and realized how it might pay to read the narrative in the Le Cordon Bleu at Home, and to do some research.
• When purchasing mussels, have a conversation with your fish monger. Don’t assume they are going to give you the freshest mussels or select carefully for you.
• Mussels must be cooked while they are still alive.
• Smell them. They should smell like the ocean. If they smell fishy, don’t buy them.
• Getting them from the grocer to home is a challenge, because they can suffocate. A good fish monger sells them loose or in a mesh bag in water; but, don’t expect this in a grocery store. where they may wrap them in butcher paper or worse, polyseal. Next time, I’ll take my own bowl and damp towel. If they are sealed, immediately poke holes in the seal to allow them to breathe.
• Never buy mussels that are cracked, chipped broken or open.
• Live mussels are tightly closed. If they are slightly open, tap on them. If they don’t close, discard them or better yet, don’t purchase them.
Mussels should be eaten the same day of purchase, especially if you don’t live near an ocean.
Store overnight in bottom of refrigerator in bowl covered with wet towel.
- Clean mussels with a stiff brush.
- Rinse well, making sure you get all the sand out. Soak for 30 minutes in water, if needed.
- Clean the beard, indigestible fiber hanging vegetation that can be pulled off or cut off with knife.
- Mussels are best steamed and take approximately three-six minutes to open.
- Mussels are cooked when they open up completely. If they don’t open, discard.
Le Cordon Bleu at Home refers to this dish as Mouclade. In researching, mouclade, it is often made with curry, although I’ve seen saffron as an alternative. This particular recipe has neither, but it would be interesting to add those flavors.
See Le Cordon Bleu at Home for original recipe. This is a serving for 1-2.
- Chop small onion and shallot, sweat in 2 T butter, add 1/4 cup white wine.
- Bring to a boil, add a dozen mussels, cover for 3-6 minutes, or until mussels are open. Shake the saucepan to make sure all mussels are properly steamed.
- Discard any unopened mussels. Remove with slotted spoon.
Strain broth through a mesh strainer. At this point, I added the broth back into the saucepan and added more wine.
- Whisk in 1/4 cup heavy cream.
- Remove mussels from shell, carefully placing back into one half shell.
- Cover with cream and enjoy.
Come back tomorrow to see an Italian version of mussels made with fennel and Italian sausage.
Come back next Wednesday for Huîtres Chaudes au Muscadet (Poached Oysters with Muscadet Sabayon Sauce).