Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mussels & Cider

Necessity really is the mother of invention isn't it, and what could be more satisfying than giving yourself over entirely to necessity, and in so doing creating something surprisingly tasty from a few fridge scraps... and a bag of shellfish.

I've featured Mussels before on this blog, they're my 'Home Alone' treat, and the perfect accompaniment to a glass of cider and hunk of crusty bread. Half a kilo of fresh shiny-black Mussels are one of lifes real pleasures. A pleasure to look at, a simple pleasure to cook, and just the most moreish finger food there is. Karen doesn't like them, which is obviously a bonus for me. Half a kilo each is a good weight for a Saturday evening at home with a good movie. You may need to use the subtitle option though, the annoying rustle of a crisp packet is as nothing to the rattle and slurp of a bowl of Mussels.

I bought my Mussels on Leicester Market. Proper barnacle-encrusted Brancaster beauties, bought by the weight, and wrapped in paper, not vac-pac'd and swimming in garlic butter from the supermarket. There's a little more work involved for sure. Barnacles and beards need removing, and a good scrub won't go amiss, but I really like this bit of prep, and it's a good opportunity to find broken or gaping shells which may need rejecting. If a Mussel doesn't snap to attention after a sharp tap on the sink, it's a goner and not for the pot.

When it came to cooking these Mussels, I started as I usually do by opening a bottle of good dry cider. On this occasion, a bottle of our dwindling stock of 2010 Kingston Black/Sweet Alford blend. Rich, fruity, full of varietal character, a slight suggestion of sweetness. In fact almost too good to cook with.

Normandie Mussel Surprise

Saute a finely chopped Clove of Garlic and a tablespoon of finely chopped Onion or Shallot in a nob Butter until softened. To the hot pan add the Mussels and a good slosh of the Dry Cider (Medium/Dry would be fine, but definately not any sweeter). Cover and steam for a minute or two until all the Mussels have opened for your pleasure. At this point, remove the Mussels with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

This is where necessity makes an appearance. I wanted to add a bit of cream to the stock, but the cream was somewhat past its best. Instead I was forced to turn to a scrag-end of creamy Camembert, a leftover from the Christmas cheese board, all gooey and ripe, but still in good condition. I added a chunk of this to the pan, and stirred until I had a thin sauce, seasoned with Black Pepper, and poured over the waiting Mussels. At this point you may want to add some Chopped Parsley, I would certainly have liked to but my luck had well and truly ran out by now. The Mussels were great nevertheless.

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