EQUIPMENT: small pot, large pot with lid, wooden spoon
In all mussels recipes, all you really have to do is make sure that the mussels, when served, are reasonably coated with the sauce and are sitting in a bowl, steaming hot. (And in case you haven’t been paying attention: If they don’t open all the way, don’t eat ’em.)
But let’s say the boss is coming over for dinner, or a photographic team from Gourmet magazine is on its way to chronicle your swinging lifestyle. You might want to get artsy—and burn your fingers: When you yank your mussels off the fire, instead of just dumping them into a bowl—or eating them right out of the pot (both perfectly acceptable, fun ways to go)—you can stick your tender paws into the pot and quickly pick the mussels out and arrange them in a shallow, heated serving bowl. Spreading each shell open slightly and resting each mussel upright in a sort of tight floral or concentric pattern, starting with the outer layer and working inward and upward, you can (if you don’t burn your fingers too badly) make a cookbook-ready money-shot of a presentation that will have your guests thinking you do this all the time.
Just do it quickly. And give the sauce left in the pot a good shot of heat before pouring it over your erotically gaping mussels. If you do this in a restaurant, you can whack the customer another $2.50 for the same dish. So it might be worth a try.
- Yield: 4 servings
- 1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 6 small white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/2 apple, cored, peeled, and cut into small dice or chunks
- 3 ounces good Calvados
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- 6 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (just before cooking)
- In the small pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the meat is brown and the fat has been rendered, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Discard the fat and reserve the meat.
- In the large pot, heat the butter until it foams. Add the shallot and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the apple and cook for 5 minutes, then stir in the Calvados, scraping the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon to dislodge any good brown stuff that might be clinging there. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.
- Once the mixture has come to a boil, add the mussels and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, or until all of the mussels have opened. Shake. Cook for another minute. Shake again. Serve immediately.
Beverage pairing: Sauvion Muscadet, France. Muscadet can make a pallid, neutral, boring white wine. But when well made it has zest and minerality, making it the perfect companion for shellfish, particularly oysters, clams, and of course mussels. Its subtleness allows the flavor of the mussels to shine, and it refreshes the mouth after each bite.