I thought I would start posting some of my favourite recipes, using local produce. This one is a favourite, very local and delicious. The Cotentin is renowned for its seafood, especially mussels. They are grown locally on bouchots – wooden piles, wound round with rope and driven into the sea bed.
To start with you need a large pan, the bigger the better with a tight fitting lid. As the mussels cook, the shells will open and take up more room – so make sure the pan is at least twice as big as the volume of mussels.
Fresh, live mussels – allow 500g per person for a generous main course, half if for a starter.
1 bottle of white wine, more if you need to cook for more than four people
Shallots – I use one to two per portion
Garlic – one clove per serving
A knob of butter or a tablespoon of olive oil
Flat parseley – lots
(Optionally a few celery leaves)
Crème Fraîche – a good tablespoon per serving (Double cream if you can’t get Crème Fraîche)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Crusty bread to serve
Use the mussels on the day you buy them. Soak the mussels in cold fresh water for a good hour. If you are really fussy, you might want to change the water and soak for a second. It depends on the quality of the mussels. Important: Discard any mussels that have broken shells or are open. Believe me, you don’t want to take any chances. Clean the mussels by pulling off any bits of rope fibre left and scraping off barnacles. Drain.
Peel and thinly chop the shallots, coarsely chop the parsley (you can include the stems) and the celery leaves if you are using them.
Melt the butter and soften the shallots and crushed garlic. Add the parsley, celery leaves and seasoning and cook a little while longer. Turn the heat up to full and add the wine (half a bottle if cooking for one; otherwise all of it). Bring to a rapid boil, then add the mussels all at once and put the lid on the pan. Shake it to ensure that all the mussels get covered with the liquid – this ensures they die quickly and painlessly. Cook for three to four minutes, shaking vigorously from time to time to time.
Take off the heat and stir in the cream.
Serve with white whine, crusty bread and plenty of the liquor. Do not eat any mussels that have not opened.
Mussels are a great source of protein and minerals (Calcium, Potassium, Sodium Magnesium), vitamins A, C and D. They contain less than 3g of fat per serving. They are at their best between July and November here in France.