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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Monday, June 26, 2006
Musseling In
This is my favourite time of year to eat shellfish. I guess I'm in tune with the old saying to only eat oysters in months with an r* in them, though it rings true with mussels and scallops as well. There is a tautness to them and they seem plumper in colder weather. Maybe the saying is referring to their breeding season when they appear flabby, or that shellfish in warmer months can more easily harbour bacteria, whatever, sit me down with a steaming bowl of winter mussels and I'm as happy as a truffle pig in an oak forest.

One piece of advice that attaches to mussel eating is to never eat any that don't open in the cooking process. Not that I'm saying you should ignore this, but I do recall one time that I took some mussels straight from the fridge, cleaned their little beards and barnacley bits, cooked them and hardly any opened. I don't know what you would do faced with this dilemma, but I simply opened them up and ate them. Mind you, I did trust the source and I believed that because the mussels were still cold from the fridge, this was the reason they failed to open. I've also seen an interview with the owner of a Belgium style cafe who said that he quite happily opens and consumes any closed up mussels. People who eat raw mussels never know if the bivalve would've opened or not. The choice is yours!

Many years ago when I was sharing house with some dear friends, I purchased some mussels for us all to eat. Imagine my surprise when C who is an oyster lover thought she didn't like mussels. To anyone that has eaten raw mussels, that is a bit of a shock as raw oysters and mussels taste surprisingly similar, with perhaps oysters tasting a little more iodine like.

Anyway I had this brand new cookbook, French Country Cooking by the Roux brothers and was itching to try mussels in cider. After trying them this way C became a convert.

Mussels in Cider

1kg (2.5lb) mussels, debearded and scraped clean
120g (4oz) butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
400ml (14fl oz) medium dry cider
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon snipped chives, to serve

Melt 40g (1.5oz) butter in a large saucepan. Put in shallots and sweat for 2 minutes, then add 300ml (11fl oz) cider, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce the cider by hard boiling to one third, add the cream and mussels and cover the pan. Cook on very high heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan every minute, so the mussels cook evenly. As soon as the mussels open, tip them into a colander placed over a bowl.

Pour the juices back into the cleaned out pot and reduce to a light sauce. Add the remaining cider, bring to a boil, then whisk in the remaining butter. Season, be careful with the salt.

While the sauce is reducing, remove the half shell and place the mussels in deep plates. When the sauce is ready pour some over the mussels and sprinkle with chives, serve the rest of the sauce separately with some crusty bread.

* obviously true for the northern hemisphere, down under we are arse about, to use a lovely Australian colloquialism.
  posted at 8:10 am

At 12:49 pm, Blogger Reb said...

Stephanie Alexander reckons it's ok to eat mussels still closed after cooking. She says to just leave them in the pot for a few extra moments and they will eventually start to open. She advises some just have a really tight hinge and need extra coaxing (I've found this to be pretty true of the fresh live mussels we get and I buy straight from the fish markets). I chuck them out if they don't shut tight when tapped before cooking. The cider recipe sounds delicious!

At 7:25 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, I hadn't heard that before, 'a really tight hinge that needs extra coaxing' but will definately look into it!


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