The one must have to go along with this recipe is a big, crusty loaf of bread. You’ll need it to mop up all the sweet, briny juice that collects at the bottom of the bowl once you’ve finished devouring all the mussels.
This is a take on the french classic moules marinière. The cool thing about mussels is that there cheap, cook quickly, and are a sustainable form of aquaculture.
If you reckon you don’t like mussels then try my gratinated mussels in garlic butter. It’s another classic and the dish that turned me on to them when my uncle cooked it for me as a teenager. Shell fish and garlic butter, you can’t really go wrong! And that’s the aroma you get wafting through your kitchen when you start to cook this too. The smell of garlic been gently cooked in olive oil really gets the juices flowing.
I can remember eating mussels as a kid when my family went on holidays to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. It was great fun collecting them in the rock pools and we simply boiled them up in some sea water. I was less than impressed with the taste though. At the time I thought they looked kind of weird and had a funny texture. I like to think I’ve developed a palate since then, some of the guy’s I work with might disagree though.
These days I wouldn’t recommend collecting mussels along the sea-shore. Thier filter feeders and you just don’t know how clean the water is and the last thing you want is a dose of something nasty. Sometimes you never know what you’ll find inside when you cook them, like the little guy below.
Mussels production is tightly controlled and they spend days in purification tanks and are tested for bacteria to make sure they’re safe to eat.
This wasn’t always the case and I can remember as a commis chef big sacks of them arriving in the kitchen all clumped together and covered in barnacles and seaweed. I spent many a happy hour scrubbing them clean, debearding them, and hacking off barnacles.
Most of the time now they arrive in the fishmongers spotlessly clean and to prepare them it’s just a matter of pulling out the odd beard and soaking them in a couple of changes of water to get rid of any sand or grit.
A top tip here when soaking your mussels is to lift them out of the water leaving the grit behind, rather than just pouring the water off. You don’t want any of it getting in the beautiful cooking liquor made with the sweet cider and salty speck.
Look out for any that are open because there already dead and discard them. The same goes for any that don’t open when cooked.
If you can’t get your hands on some speck you could use another type of smoky bacon, but avoid using pancetta. I tried it, and it’s a little too strong for this recipe. Also use a sweet cider it complements the smokey bacon and sweet mussels perfectly.
Mussels are good for you…well maybe not if you cook them this way. The cream does add to the calorie count. They contain protein and are a known antioxidant. Theres also iron which gives your immune system a boost. Along with B vitamins to help maintain energy.
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