Last Week’s Special – 18

Mussels with Anise

Moules marinière, Mosselen met Look, Mussels in Beer, Mussels with Piri Piri and Mussels with Anise, served with crusted bread or with French fries: mussels are great to combine.

But first let’s talk mussel basics:

  • They must be alive when you cook them. Like oysters, there is no alternative.
  • It’s seafood; so don’t put them in fresh water. If you want to wash them, then add salt to the water.
  • Clean the mussels thoroughly. It takes a few minutes but it essential for the quality of the sauce. Simply scrape of all the nasty bits.
  • When cleaning the mussels: throw away broken ones. Also throw away ones that won’t close, even after a gently tap.
  • In this case the sauce will be all over the mussels, so make sure they are really clean.
  • Add the mussels to the very hot cooking liquid and then close the pan with a lid: you don’t want your mussels to suffer any longer than necessary.
  • Cook the mussels until they are open. Don’t use a timer, don’t think they have to be cooked through and through: it will only turn them into rubbery non-tasty things.
  • Don’t eat the ones that are not open after cooking.
  • Some suggest using the cooking juices as cheap stock. Don’t.

Mussels with Anise is light, tasty and refreshing; it is an excellent lunch, especially when overlooking the Mediterranean, but it’s also a beautiful starter. Use crushed anise seeds for the sauce. Don’t use star anise, it has a much sweeter taste; something we don’t recommend for this sauce.

We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of Picpoul de Pinet. Let’s explain the name: the grape is called Picpoul Blanc. And the vineyards belong to a village called Pinet; close to the Etang de Thau in the south of France between Narbonne and Montpellier. The terroir (think calcareous soil, clay, quartz) is influenced by the sea, which is reflected in the mineral taste of the wine. The story is that Picpoul could be read as pique poul which translates into something like ‘stings the lip’; a nice reflection of the high acidity of the grapes. This acidity guarantees a refreshing white wine, which is exceptional given the warm climate. The wine is bright yellow with a very subtle touch of green. It’s aromatic, floral and fruity. The taste has notes of citrus and hopefully some bitterness, which will make it into a really interesting wine. To be combined with oysters, mussels, fruit de mer, skate and fish in general.
We enjoyed our mussels with a glass of very nice Picpoul de Pinet AOP les Flamants.

(No Belgian connection here! A flamant is a flamingo, the light pink to bright red bird living in the Camargue.)

Here is what you need:

  • 1 kilo of Mussels (we prefer small ones)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Garlic Glove
  • Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Chives, Thyme)
  • White Whine
  • 10 grams of Flour
  • 10 grams of Butter
  • Cream

Warm a fairly big pan and gently glaze the sliced onion in oil and butter. Then add the chopped garlic. Add a glass of white wine and the bouquet garni and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, allowing the tastes to integrate.
In parallel make a roux with the flour and butter. Make sure the flour is cooked, otherwise your sauce will not be as tasty. Add the crushed anise seeds. Now start adding the cream, bit by bit (it’s cold and you don’t want to lower the temperature of the roux too much), creating a nice sauce, one that is actually too thick.
Turn the fairly big pan to maximum heat and when really hot add the mussels and close the pan with the lid. Listen and observe: you will be able to hear when content of the pan is becoming hot again. You will see steam, more steam. That’s the moment to use some of the juice to finish your sauce. And it also allows you to check the status of the mussels. Close the lid, listen and observe. Taste the sauce, maybe add more liquid. Remove the remainder of the juices from the mussels, then poor the sauce over the mussels and give the pan a good shake before serving, making sure the sauce covers the mussels. We prefer our anise seed mussels with crusted bread. 



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