Wednesday, February 9

Moules Marniere

To kill time during my winter break as a culinary student, I helped out in the basement kitchen of Le Cordon Bleu, by preparing meals for our chefs.  The task was quite daunting, considering, the thought of having to cook for your mentors, all of whom worked at Michelin-starred restaurants, frightened me.  To have backed out at that point, was unthinkable, so I just rolled with it.

Chef Didier ruled that kitchen.  Belgian-born, he moved to France to work for starred chefs, until he found himself working for Harrod's.  Wanting a slower-paced life, he chose to work at the Le Cordon Bleu, the setting for which we met.  High on EQ, he immediately tried to assuage my fears by telling me he'd gladly help me on my first lunch service.  So I asked him to teach me that fragrant snail dish I fell in love with in Brussels.  We couldn't find snails in the pantry at that time, and so we opted for mussels and he said in the thickest French accent I can remember, "Zer iz no escargots in zi Freezir zo we shall juz cook Moules marniere inztead.  Iz ziz okay wiz you mademoiselle?"  How could I say no?  It sounded fairly simple, and it was!  This dish is French by nature but is oftentimes seen all over Europe.  
In a hot pan, combine extra olive oil and a knob of butter.  Let this combine.
Add chopped shallots.  If you don't have shallots, combine red onions and garlic.
Add mussels that have been quickly washed in running water.  I like to serve about 10 pieces per person as an entree.  And I like to cook the mussels within the same day I purchased it.  I like to keep things fresh, especially for seafood (which doesn't stay longer than 3 days in my freezer).
Pour a quarter to a half cup of dry white wine then cover with a lid under medium-high heat.  Special instructions on cooking with wine can be found here.  If you're too lazy to read the link, pour wine into a cup rather than straight from the bottle as I've seen one too many bottles of wine flare up.  Your hand might catch fire.  Also, you  may want to regulate the flame to low when you pour your wine because you might end up doing a flambe (fire catching your mussels).  

Once the mussels open, they're cooked.  Discard unopened shells immediately.  Season with coarse sea salt and black pepper.
Add coarsely chopped parsley.  I wanted to give this a slightly Swedish accent by placing dill instead.

Mother Teresa Notes:  Mussels can be bought in wet market or S&R.