There are so many ways to truly enjoy mussels or moules and each one more delicious than the next. I've mentioned only one other recipe for moules, in my meandering culinary musings, that I would truly consider to be the "essential moules" and that's Moules Marinières or Mussels in White Wine. Bear with me as I wax nostalgic for a moment, I can remember whiling away those endless summer days in Brittany where, if not at the beach building sandcastles and laying out the piste for the Tour de France, I was surely with my brothers building a fort in one of the backyard apple trees; a fort, mind you that flew a homemade, stitched together Confederate flag -my mother and her strong southern roots! From our imposing ramparts high in the tree, we defended ourselves valiantly against the invading Romans, knights, Union soldiers or indians. To say we built up an enormous appetite is putting it mildly. I had more than my fair share of mussels for lunch and dinner. They were cheap, plentiful, easy to prepare and always fun to eat. For me, it remains a deeply evocative meal; it's no surprise that when I do return to Brittany, I know that at some point, I will have the distinct pleasure of coming face-to-face with a heaping, aromatic steaming bowl of mussels. Breathing in the tasty vapors will launch me right back to my early days, a sunburned, scrawny kid who felt certain that those long summer days in Brittany would never end.
This dish deserves serious and equal consideration as a great summer dish because it's easy to put together for a gathering with friends out on the back porch overlooking the brilliant Mediterranean or maybe just overlooking your neighbor's backyard, laundry and crying children. In the end, who wouldn't die for mussels prepared in this fashion?
Mussels with Roquefort Sauce - Moules au Roquefort
4.5 lbs (2 kg) of fresh moules*
3 nice size shallots 1/2 bottle of dry white wine (with one or two glasses for the cook, you will need a full bottle)
16 oz of thick cream or crème fraîche- whatever you can lay your hands on in the kitchen
A good piece of Roquefort but remember it's a strong flavored blue cheese so if Auntie is coming over, I would suggest you go with tea and biscuits or if you know some of your friends are finicky about one thing or another, don't bother inviting them, you're just asking for trouble. Believe me.
2 -3 tablespoons butter
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Pinch of red pepper (be bold)
Ocean view (optional)
* Our neighbor in Brittany who has a "little seafood side business" once told me her rule of thumb is 2kg per person if its for the main meal or 1kg per person as an appetizer.)
Clean and beard the moules because who really wants whiskers on their moules anyway. Then wash under cold running water while scraping off any barnacles or seaweed. Rip off their false beards to reveal their true identify then squeeze the mussels (if they don't open they're fine, but if cracked or open for business, discard them or give them to your neighbors)
In a pan, sweat the onions/shallots in a large pan with melted butter, add the cream and the well-crumbled Roquefort cheese, then add the parsley, salt and pepper to taste, add a glass of white wine and let simmer for a few minutes. Keep on a low flame.
In a deep pan (une cocotte) heat the wine then add the mussels letting them slowly open, uncovered, approximately 5 minutes. Add the shallots and cream directly to the mussels and mix in with the juices; let stand for another 5 more minutes before serving.
Alternatively, you can separate the mussels from their shells then pour them into the creamy mixture this approach will give you a thicker, creamier dish but the downside is that it takes a little while longer. If it's summer time, my advice is that everything goes into the pot and that's the way it is.
Serve with a tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing, perhaps a basket of frites, a crusty baguette and a fine selection of rosé and white wines du pays.
Now about those wines...
2011 Côtes du Rhône Bosquet du Sanglier - A true French "gem" of a Rosé
2011 Domaine Grande Cassagne Rosé, Costieres de Nimes - drink it mindlessly!
2009 Côtes de Provence Château de l’Aumérade - on advice of counsel, buy and drink!
2010 Entre-deux-Mers, Chateau Haut Dambert, Bordeaux (I've recommended this little baby before and do so again because it's a top flight, delicious summer wine at a very reasonable price. What's that?? Case up my friends you won't go wrong.