Forget your Michelin restaurant haute cuisine – moules-frites is the favourite French dish in the seafood regions of the north and west of France. All sorts of shellfish such as oysters, scallops and mussels are harvested along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines – the picture opposite was taken on a recent trip to the coast.
Here’s a simple but tasty traditional way of preparing mussels, to be served with frites and crusty bread. The Normandy version of “moules marinières” with cider in place of wine. Obviously, you can substitute equivalent good quality ingredients for the Normandy butter, cider and cream according to what’s available in your locality.
- 2 litres of wild mussels (approximately 1.6 kg)
- 2 shallots
- a bunch of parsley
- a branch of thyme
- 20 cl of Normandy cream (or crème fraiche)
- 90 g Normandy butter
- egg yolk
- dry Normandy cider
- olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
Soak the mussels in a bowl of cold water. Scrape and brush the mussels clean. Remove the beard. Rinse in a colander under running water. Discard any mussels that are chipped and any that do not close when tapped. Peel and chop the shallots. Wash and chop the parsley. Mix together the egg yolk and cream.
Pour two to three tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron casserole/pot. Add mussels and chopped shallots and sweat on medium-high heat for a few minutes. When the shells open, add a glass of dry cider, a branch of thyme, butter and egg/cream mixture. Add pepper to taste. Do not add salt. Cover and allow to cook over medium/low heat for a few minutes until mussels are fully open – do not allow to boil.
When cooked, sprinkle the mussels with finely chopped parsley. Serve immediately in the casserole with side dish of chips and some dry Normandy cider.