Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Importance of Moules

Moules Mariniere

Ingredients for 2:
1kg Checked, cleaned & bearded live mussels
1Tbsp Sunflower oil
50gm Unsalted cold butter
1 Large Barrington banana shallot or 2 small shallots, peeled, halved & thinly sliced
2 Large garlic cloves, minced
150ml Quality dry white wine, Muscadet would be ideal
Good handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
NOTE:  Moules Mariniere does not contain cream!  Major bugbear of mine.

1) Place a large heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove and heat to a high temp.
2) Add the sunflower oil and half the butter, add the garlic and shallots and cook for 10-20      seconds, rapidly stirring.  Do not allow the garlic to burn.
3) Quickly add the mussels, give them a stir, pour in the wine and tightly lid the saucepan.
4) Cook for 2-4 minutes or until the mussels just open.  Don't be afraid to give them a good 'lid held' shake to aid their death throe blossoming.
5) Pour the mussels into a colander over another saucepan.
6) Quickly put this second saucepan on high heat, 'monter' with the rest of the butter, toss in the parsley and season the sauce to taste.

To serve:
Divide the mussels between two large bowls and pour over the broth/sauce.  Serve with frites, aioli and/or crusty French bread for that all important final 'mop up'.  Moules go great with fizz, white wine, cider or a quality ale.

     Mussels will marry with many flavours- cream, chorizo, Thai paste, any variety of herbs and spices.  If you are certain of freshness and source, they are delectable pried open and slid down the throat still wriggling.  Of particular note is the 'Eclade des moules' originating from the beaches of La Rochelle in the Bay of Biscay.  A wonderful feast where the the mussels are arranged in concentric circles on a plank so that the hinged part of the shell is facing up.  Pine needles are mounded on top to a depth of a foot or so and set afire. The needles burn in a flash, producing a rich resinous smoke and imparting a unique flavour.  Two or three minutes after the fire goes out, the ashes are swept away and the mussels are eaten directly from the shell along with country bread, butter and white wine.

     What could be more simple, more primeval to a food lover than fresh shellfish.  Surely one of mankind's first found morsels and little changed through history.  Restaurant trends, molecular gastronomy, nouvelle cuisine...all shall pass into a distant memory but people will still be dribbling greedily over steamed mussels.  There is something decidedly sensual about partaking in these creamy bivalvia.  Could it be the erotic shape, the slurping and sucking when devouring or maybe the gentle way they offer themselves up after only a few steamy moments.  The near instant gratification of this natural fast food and heady more-ishness places them high on the gastronomic aphrodisiac scale.
Christ, I really want some mussels right now.
The average rural Frenchman always carries an Opinel.
I imagine the posh ones carry one of these silver plated mussel eaters.

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