Vanity. It has the potential to be the undoing of the best of us. I work hard to be both selfless and self-aware. However, I was wearing a skimpy tee-shirt (it was a hot day) in the middle of a French market. I heard a clear (too clear for my finely tuned Irish ear) English accent. “Ooooohhh. Look at those muscles. They are wonderful.” I blushed, as one of a fine physique and a self-deprecating attitude should. However, the owner of the sharp voice pushed by us and went to the seafood stall. I followed, somewhat crestfallen, joined the queue and bought a kilo for myself.
Now, there really is very little involved in cooking these mussels. In fact, very like my ageing ‘guns’, less is more.
The ingredients for two runs as follows:
- 1 kilo (2lbs) of mussels
- A couple of cloves of garlic
- 2 shallots
- A little olive oil
- A glass of white wine (get a bottle and swill the balance with the meal)
- A handful of parsley
- A fresh, crusty French loaf of some description
Prepare the mussels by bearding them. It’s pretty much the same thing as bearding a lion except, you have to pull the beard right off the mussels. Don’t go bearding any lions on my say-so. You will end up as popular as a Minnesota dentist. Now for the important bit of the post:
How to avoid killing your family when serving mussels
First. Buy fresh mussels. If you buy dodgy specimens of indeterminate age, you are on your own. If any of the mussels are open, tap them against the side of the sink (you will be bearding them at the sink). If they close, they are good to cook. If they don’t, get rid of them. Get rid on any with broken shells too. After the mussels have been cooked, if any don’t open, get rid of them too. The reason for all this is very simple. A dead open mussel won’t close before cooking. A dead closed mussel won’t open during cooking. Don’t take any chances. Eating already dead mussels is gambling with your health.
If the above paragraph doesn’t put you off, chop the garlic, shallots and parsley.
Get a big pot and put it on a hot stove. Add the olive oil and then the garlic and shallots. Stir until aromas of garlic wonderfulness rise from the pot. Tip in the mussels. Stir until they start to steam a bit. Then chuck in the glass of wine. Cover for a couple of minutes. Then chuck in the parsley. Stir. The mussels should be opening by now.
Lots of online chefs recommend cooking the mussels for another 5 to 10 minutes from this stage. I don’t. Once they are open, they are cooked and full of flavour. If you start with fresh mussels, any more cooking will just make them tough and tasteless. Serve them straight from the pot. They will finish any cooking they need to do on their final journey from stove to table. Break the crusty bread into big clumps, if your muscles will let you. Spoon out mussels and the cooking liquid into bowls.
Get stuck in, dipping the bread into the sauce and slobbering as you enjoy this lovely, salty, winey, garlicy, meal. It will build your muscles, I guarantee it.