Wednesday, August 02, 2006

RCE: Garlic & Sapphires Moules Marinieres!

Connie wrote me last week with her review of the recipe she selected, Moules Marinieres, and so she becomes the first entry into the discussion of our August book, Garlic & Sapphires. I've not edited this at all, in the interests of leaving the spirit of the review intact.
Okay, I'll admit it, I cheated! I haven't actually gotten the book yet - Since the recipe was so simple, I just jotted it down at the bookstore. I hope I didn't miss anything. I tried to take pictures, but my camera ran out of batteries. D'oh!

Anyways, I love mussels. They were a fairly standard dish during my childhood. My mom would stir fry them with purple basil and chinese black beans, and since then, I've eaten them many different ways - stuffed with garlic and grilled, in paella, roasted on a bed of rock salt, in a broth of mint and coconut milk, etc. I've even had them raw, on the half shell. One of the restaurants I frequent - Plouf - specializes in
mussels. The recipe I use the most is from Bouchon's cookbook. It incorporates saffron, mustard and lots of garlic. We eat it pretty often at home. And there's a facinating recipe from Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France that involves packing the mussels very tightly hinge side up between wooden planks, placing a layer of pine needles directly over them, then setting the needles on fire. The mussels are ready when the fire subsides.

Reichl's recipe is the classic, straight out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's pretty simple - boil the aromatics in white wine (Julia sometimes says to use vermouth or pernod) long enough evaporate the the alcohol, then add the mussels and cook until they open. Throw in some butter and chopped parsley, et voila! C'est moules marinieres. With a side of fries, it becomes moules frites, Belgium's national dish. This recipe is a lot easier and lighter than the one I normally make, but just as
satisfying. Keller says to saute the aromatics in butter, stir in some dijon mustard, saffron and thyme, add the wine and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Allow the saffron to steep for at least five minutes, return the broth to a boil, cook the mussels,
then toss in the parsley. I found that the flavor of the mustard and saffron were assertive and rich enough enough that I started substituting olive oil for butter. In Reichl's version, incorporating the butter towards the end added an extra dimension of sweetness, sort of like when you stir butter into risotto as the final step. I may try that trick the next time I use Keller's recipe.

A few notes about the recipe - Bouchot mussels are considered the best, but PEI, farmed on Prince Edward Island, are pretty good and readily available. Before
I cook mussels, I always soak them for an hour in water with a little bit of flour, changing it halfway, to "flush" and plump them. As a final step, I scrub them with a brush and pull out the beards just before they go in the pot. If you're going to add butter towards the end, cut it up the so that it distributes evenly with the mussels. Oh, and even if you're not having the frites, be sure to serve them with crusty bread.

Thanks so much, Connie! I have to admit a bit of bias towards PEI mussels (being Canadian and all) but I'll pretty much eat them any time they're fresh and tasty! Its pretty common in most groceries here in Canada that have a fresh fish counter to find them in bags nestled in ice, just waiting to be cooked. I have to admit that the roasted pine needle trick is one that I'm dying to try. Perhaps next time I'm visitin my parents...

Anyway, next we'll have Christine's review of Aushak - and her obsession with dumplings! I'm planning on getting cracking on mine as well (although rhubarb season is pretty much over, I'm going to go with frozen to compensate) but I also bought matzos today at the market (99c, can't go wrong!) so I'll most likely make mazto brei as well... So bring on the recipe reviews and your thoughts on the book! Can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!

P.S. I've started on reading Heat, one of our September selections. You're in for a treat if you like the thought of working in a kitchen! I can hardly put it down!


At 1:15 a.m., Blogger C(h)ristine said...

I finished Heat last night in a manic frenzy! I couldn't put the last 2/3 of the book down!

GREAT choice, Eric!
And even more interesting, I think, is pairing Heat with Nasty Bits (the former a book by a writer turned cook....the latter a book by a cook turned writer).

At 10:03 a.m., Blogger Eric said...

I'm nearly done Heat and picked up The Nasty Bits last night at the bookstore. I can't wait to get into that one too!


Post a Comment

<< Home