Saturday, April 25, 2009

Moules à la marinière: can classics be improved?

Just when I thought there is no way to improve a classic, there we go I did just that!

Moules à la marinière is perhaps the most popular way to cook mussels: after all, who knows how to do it better than the fishermen (les marinières )! The basic recipe guarantees best results and seems wanting no improvement.

However, after years of sticking to the authentic recipe, I have discovered the added twist of fresh Florence fennel. It gives the molluscs a warm, faintly anisey aroma. And the fragrant broth at the bottom of the pot is to die for!
  1. Wash 2 kg mussels in running water. Remove the remaining beards, if necessary.
  2. Melt 50 g unsalted butter in a mussels pot (you can use any other type of pot but then it would be like drinking wine out of a tea mug!).
  3. I give it a generous dash of freshly ground black pepper at this point for the sake of intensity but this is optional. It's just that my pleasure threshold is somewhat high, I need more stimulation.
  4. As mussels are naturally salty, you will need not add any salt.
  5. Sweat one stalk of leek, thinly sliced and half a Florence fennel, thinly sliced, with (optional) one carrot, peeled and thinly sliced .
  6. Add the mussels and cook them on medium heat, stirring periodically.
  7. When the mussels start opening add a cup of white wine.
  8. Once all mussels are open it's time to serve!
Pommes frites are the traditional side dish for mussles but I never used those. It is the 21st century and we should know better than deep-fried food! I make low-fat oven-baked potato chips myself. The delish brown colour comes from a wee dab of French Caribbean liquid cane sugar, normally used for rhum-based cocktails. A sprinkle of herbes de Provence gives a herby tone, while a piece of charcoal in the oven ensures an appetizing smoky scent.

As it goes,
moules frites are best accompanied by good friends and a bottle of white.

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