5 lbs mussels
1 medium onion
8 cloves garlic
6 good ripe tomatoes
1 l (bottle) chardonnay (the same wine you drink with dinner is best)
1 or 2 serrano chillies or 1 tsp chilli paste
250 ml cream
3 tbsp butter (to sautée)
2 or 3 Tbsp butter (to steaming pot)
Also, a good baguette or two, plus olive oil
They say, eat mussels only in the months with an R (here in the northern hemisphere). I agree. We just barely squeezed in the season here in early SeptembeR. The mussels were a little small but tasty. They shouldn’t smell like anything but briny seawater. That’s how you know they’re fresh.
Unless you are harvesting your mussels yourself (therefore you will know and decide if the water they live in is water that you would take in to your body) make sure your mussels source is reputable, and sells Oceanwise* products or operates with Slowfish* principles.
The general rule for a single person’s feast of mussels is about a pound. So this recipe makes mussels for six. Adjust as you need to :)
Get out your largest pot (a pasta pot or greater) and make sure it has a lid, or find something that will hold in the steam that’ll cook these mussels.
Chop your leeks. This is an important step to get right, or you’ll have woody bits in your broth. Only use the whites and soft yellow of the stalk. Once you chop up to the point that your 1/8 inch leek discs get limey, stop. Keep your leek tops for a stock later, in a bag in the freezer. Turn up the heat under the big pot to medium, melt the 3 Tbsp of butter then add your leeks.
Dice your onion, and add it to the leeks once they have softened up. Smash your garlic cloves with the wide part of a chef knife down, and your fist mindfully pressing until the clove gives way to a smash. This will release a lot more of the flavour. I nearly always do this to my garlic. Plus, it is a quick way to peel garlic. Try and you will see, the fine husks slip right off. Finely chop the garlic and add it to the leeks and onions sautéing. Finely chop the serrano peppers, and add to the pot. You can choose your spice level and adjust by removing the pepper whites and seeds (this is the hot part of the pepper). Once these ingredients have softened up - the leeks are broken down strings and the onions are transparent - chop your tomatoes and add them to the mix. The moisture from the tomatoes will ensure you don’t brown the onion, leek, garlic, pepper mixture. Let this all cook together for around 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just broken down, hot all the way through the pieces, not overcooked so as to retain the fruitiness of the tomato. While this is cooking, get your mussels ready, ensuring that they have been bearded by your fishmonger. If they aren’t, and you will know by visible inspection, pull the stringy fray that grows out from the edge to remove it. If you aren’t sure by my brief explantion, please google a technique on bearding mussels.
If you are grilling your baguette, slice it on the diagonal for nice long pieces. Turn your bbq up on high. Fill a bowl with 3 or 4 Tbsp olive oil, and with an oil brush coat both sides of the baguette slices.
Turn the heat up to medium/high, then carefully add the mussels. As in, don’t dump the mussels into the pot without thought. You will have breakage that will make slurping up your broth less joyous with the broken shell shards. Add your bottle of wine. Use the same wine that you are drinking with dinner. Or if you are drinking a special bottle find a good bottle of wine that is stylistically similar, and of the same variety (for this I really do suggest Chardonnay or a dry white). For example, if you are having a Chablis with dinner, choose a minerally chardonnay. Ask your local wine shop for ideas. Once there is quite a bit of steam rising, get a long spoon ready, and add your whipping cream, giving a gentle stir of all the ingredients in the pot. drop in your 2 or 3 Tbsp of butter. Close the lid for around 7 minutes. The mussels should all have opened. If not, keep the heat up and the lid on for a little longer.
Fill a bowl with 3 or 4 Tbsp olive oil, and with an oil brush coat both sides of the baguette slices. Grill them until you get a little char, see the pic. If you are using your oven, lay them out on a cookie sheet on highest shelf, on broil to get a nice toast to them. It should only take a minute. Watch carefully so as not to burn them. Turn over, to do the other side. Serve them in a big bowl for the table.
Place trivets on your table, and put the whole pot out with a ladle, and let your guests serve themselves into bowls. Be sure to have a bowl at the ready for spent shells. I like to use a shell to scoop up the broth. And of course, the baguette is for sopping up the broth. Enjoy!