Moules a la Creme – A delicious and inexpensive seafood dish that is full of protein.
John has always been a great seafood lover and maybe that is the reason why he has such an affinity with French food, particularly seafood.
When in Paris for Christmas and the New Year John marvels and drools over the display of oysters that can be found on the stalls at the top of Rue Lepic in Montmatre. In addition, the seafood platters displayed outside the Brasserie la Mascotte are particularly inviting. This is where they prepare the platters for the restaurant and also for home delivery.
A stay in Montmartre wouldn’t be same without at least one visit to La Mascotte. We have eaten there many times and absolutely love the atmosphere and friendliness that exudes from the locals in the bar and the restaurant. It is expensive but so worth it. A little reminder that they only serve seafood when in season (basically when there is an ‘R’ in the month), but the menu is excellent the rest of the year as well.
But John’s greatest love are mussels. If a restaurant has moules on the menu as a starter and as a main course, he will order both.
Mussels are part of the same mollusc family as clams and oysters. They are very nutrient-rich and high in protein. They provide vitamin C, iron, zinc and all of the B vitamins, including high amounts of vitamin B-12, which provide protection against cancer as well as looking after your skin and hair. Personally I don’t actually eat them, but maybe I should.
Archaeological evidence suggest that mussels have been used as a food for over 20,000 years. France lays a claim to have started the first mussel farm in 1235. An Irish sailor, Patrick Walton, ran aground off the French coast. In order to feed himself he hung up nets on poles to catch sea-birds. He didn’t catch any birds but instead found that mussels were sticking themselves to the poles supporting the nets. The poles/stakes that he used are called bouchots, and in France today the most prized mussels are moules de bouchots, smaller, tenderer, paler and tastier than other kinds, but twice as expensive.
This recipe for Moules a la Crème is delicious and so inexpensive. When buying mussels to cook at home always make sure they are still alive. The shells should be damp and shiny. Any shells that are open should be tapped gently, if they do not close up discard them.
This is an adaption of a recipe found in ‘Larousse Gastronomique [Crown Publishing:New York] 1961′..
Moules a la Crème
- 2 kg/4.4 lbs mussels
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 15g/1/2oz butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 142 ml/5 fl oz dry white wine
- 142 ml/5 fl oz double cream
- Handful of parsley roughly chopped
- Clean the mussels thoroughly in cold water using a small soft nail brush to brush the shells. Use a sharp knife to remove any large barnacles. Remove the beard and discard any shells that are open. Wash twice again in cold clean water and leave in water until ready to use
- Melt the butter in a large pan, add the chopped shallot and garlic, and the thyme and bay leaf. Soften for about one minute
- Add the mussels and wine (cider can be used instead of wine) to the pan and cover. Cook over a high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the shells have opened (4-5 mins). Turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf and thyme
- Strain the mussels from the pan reserving the juice. Put the juice back into the pan and on a low heat whisk in the cream (crème fraiche can be used if preferred).
- Return the mussels to the pan and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices
A bottle of white Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone wine goes well with this dish