Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mussels in Cream with Fresh Herbs

Plump succulent fresh mussels served in a bowl with plenty of crusty bread to mop it up with, mussels are one of our favourite shellfish and this recipe is one that I have been serving since 1972 when I first introduced it on the menu at The Whitewell Hotel (now The Inn at Whitewell) for a Christmas day starter, the mussels came through the Trough of Bowland from Morecambe every other day and the local customers would almost demand the dish as a bar snack, just try it you won’t be disappointed.

Serves / Makes: 2 servings

Prep-Time: 10 minutes
Cook-Time: 10 to 15 minutes

¾ kilo, (2 pints), mussels
1 glass dry white wine
2 chopped shallots
260mls, double cream
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
a good pinch of fresh mixed herbs, we like to use parsley and tarragon, or parsley and chervil
finely chopped parsley to garnish


Prepare the mussels by rinsing carefully, scrape off any barnacles and seaweed, and de-beard,
Sweat the shallots in a large saucepan with a little butter and the garlic, add the mussels, cover and turn up the heat, add the white wine and the herbs.
Shake pan gently and turn mussels, leave for a couple of minutes and check to see if the mussels have begun to open as soon as they have opened, add the cream and chopped herbs and then bring almost to the boil and Serve at once and Enjoy! With lots of French bread

Mussels are truly one of nature’s most delightful delicacies; they are extremely high in proteins, calcium and iron while being low in fat and calories. They are also excellent for your heart, containing the highest amount of omega3’s of any shellfish (this is the naturally occurring fatty acid that is believed to lower blood pressure). Mussels with fries or Moules frites are a characteristic Belgian dish, you get a big bowl (just about always pot) of steamed mussels, broth, and a side of frites.

Don't be tricked by how upmarket they look, mussels are the definitive uncomplicated seafood. Clean them, sauté them, steam them and hey up you'll have a dish everyone will be wowed there are many ways to serve the mussels, but the most classic is Moules Mariniere the mussels are offered in a sauce of white wine, shallots, parsley, and butter.

You can in addition find mussels served with sauces made with beer, or cream, or vegetable stock. For the greatest authenticity, use a shell to crack open the mussels, not your fork.

Mussels are at their best in cold weather, so their season is usually from October to March. When you see them in a fishmonger’s, a sign of freshness is that most of them are tightly closed: if there are a lot of open mussels don’t bother. When buying mussels you need to allow at least 1 pint (570 ml) per person for a first course, and 1½ to 2 pints (about 1 litre) for a main course. That may seem a lot, but some will have to be discarded and, once they have been shelled, mussels are very small and light.

The ritual of cleaning and preparing them sounds more bother than it actually is. When you get them home, plonk the mussels straightaway into a sinkful of cold water first of all throw out any that float to the top, then leave the cold tap running over them while you take a small knife and scrape off all the barnacles and pull off the little hairy beards. Discard any mussels that are broken, and any that are open and refuse to close tight when given a sharp tap with a knife. After you’ve cleaned each one, place it straight in another bowl of clean water.

When they’re all in, swirl them around in three or four more changes of cold water to get rid of any lingering bits of grit or sand. Leave the cleaned mussels in cold water until you’re ready to cook them. As an extra safety precaution, always check mussels again after cooking this time discarding any whose shells haven’t opened.

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