About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Grilled Mussels
In the uplifting, gentle comedy Last Holiday, about a woman, Georgia Byrd(Queen Latifa), who believes that she has only has a short time left to live, there is a wonderful short exchange between her and Chef Didier(Gerard Deperdieu) who became drawn to her after Georgia one night ordered everything on the menu. They were discussing food when Chef Didier said to Georgia, who is also a good cook...

"You and I know the meaning of life."

"What's that?"


Spoken like a true Frenchman, though Georgia was probably more the pork fat kinda gal.

These words came back to me last night as I softened some butter to mix with parsley and garlic to make garlic bread. It's not a thing I make very often, preferring most times to lazily pick it up from the supermarket chiller, but there was some leftover parsley and half a breadstick that needed to be used plus no one wanted to cook last night...

The thing is, the taste of home made garlic bread is exponential to the amount of effort required to make it and easily beats anything one can buy. But butter is not the sole secret of garlic bread, it is the holy trinity of butter, garlic and parsley that gives it character.

Holy trinities of ingredients pop up time and again in many of the great cuisines, giving identity and a certain feeling to a dish - butter, garlic and parsley is pure French, but think of a Spanish sofrito of garlic, onion and tomatoes, an Italian soffrito of onions, celery and carrots and Creole cooking is dependant upon bell pepper, onion and celery. All these different trinities are the foundation upon which many of the great dishes of the world are built, that speak of particular nations or ethnicity.

But for sheer pungency, the only other thing that comes close to the combination of butter, garlic and parsley is its close Italian cousin gremolata, a mixture of garlic, parsley and finely grated lemon peel, commonly used at the last moment to give a fragrant lift to osso bucco, which requires a restrained hand in order to not overdo it.

Not so with butter, parsley and garlic, to use it is to celebrate life* and one needs to be generous with it. It's not just the soul of garlic bread, think of earthy snails, swimming in garlicky juices or a long cooked stew that is freshened up and given a golden sheen. Or, you could try this.

Grilled Mussels

1kg mussels
splash of dry white wine
200g butter, softened
4 or 5 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Scrape the mussels and pull off the beard. Heat a large pan until very hot, put in the mussels and a splash of wine. Put on the lid and cook over a fierce heat, giving an occasional shake, until the mussels just open. Remove the mussels and reduce the leftover juices until there is about 2 tablespoons. While it is reducing, remove one half of the mussel shells and arrange the mussels in their half shells on a metal tray. When the liquid is reduced, strain it into a bowl with the butter, parsley and garlic and mix well. Take teaspoons of this mixture and place on top of each mussel, then sprinkle on some breadcrumbs. Heat a grill to high and slide the mussels under until the breadcrumbs are just brown. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.

*If you prefer your butter shared with a friend, whilst listening to Funky Cold Medina, you are celebrating life too...you're just not cooking.
  posted at 8:51 am

At 12:03 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

To your wonderful list of "trinities", I'll add my Asian trinities. Cantonese: soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Szechuan: soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chili paste with garlic.

At 12:32 pm, Blogger Kalyn said...

It must be so lovely to live somewhere where you can buy fresh mussels. They sound just fantastic!

At 1:18 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, great additions to the list, doesn't oyster sauce pop up a lot in Chinese cookery?

Hi kalyn, now I feel sorry for you! Perhaps you could grill some fish, maybe a trout and brush some on at the last minute.

At 2:59 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Will I be shot if all I need is garlic & butter? I'm such a simple girl.

At 5:06 pm, Blogger gigi said...

The world would be a better place if there were just more butter and garlic (a butter place! ;D It's been too long since I had fresh mussels. This sounds like heaven.

At 7:59 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, not from this direction, I'm sure that would be good too.

Hi gigi, I wish I'd said that(butter place), too funny! Hope you get to try some mussels soon.


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