Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mussels with white wine and tarragon

Had a few disasters with mussels recently - not my fault! Mostly the problem has been buying shellfish past their best. Once I started cleaning them and threw away all the ones that had broken shells or refused to close due to being dead already there simply wasn't enough left to make a meal. I do find as well that by the time I've binned half of them as suspect the prospect of eating the other half is less than attractive.

On the other hand I really like them - as does the man. They are such a pleasurable meal - always quick to cook, lots of juices to soak up with crusty bread, wonderfully messy by the time you start extracting the flesh from the shells with your fingers because it's too slow to do with a fork, dribbles down your chin and up to your elbows. A proper Saturday night treat.

At Furness on Saturday they had a shining mussel mountain. Though I'd gone in with the intention of buying a couple of sea bass to grill the temptation was too great. It called to me with its siren song and I came out with a kilo of mussels and great hopes for a splendid supper.

I fancied them with chillis and black beans - I had some coriander and spring onions in the fridge left over from an earlier meal and could see this as a way to use them to advantage. As I unpacked the week's shop and put the pork chops into the freezer for later I spied a tub of fish stock left over from another, less succesful, supper. White wine, tarragon, fennel, butter previously used to poach some trout. I had celery in the fridge that would add some crunch and onions for a fresh sweetness. Dinner, though not served, was definitely a plan.

Mussels with White Wine and Tarragon
1 kilo mussels, cleaned of beards
200ml fish stock* - leftover from another dish should you be so lucky
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 spring onions, sliced into 1cm lengths
1/2 large bunch coriander, finely chopped

*If you don't have any fish stock, you could always simply soften a couple of slices of fennel in a tablespoon of butter then add 300ml of white wine with a couple of sprigs of tarragon and simmer to reduce to 200ml. Strain out the aromatics and add a twist of black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pan and gently fry the onion till it's transparent. Throw in the celery, increase the heat to full blast and stir for a minute. Tip in the stock and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and cover immediately. Allow to bubble away for a couple of minutes then shake the pan to encourage all the shells to open. After another minute take off the lid - most, if not all the mussels should be open. Quickly stir through the coriander and spring onions then serve in deep bowls with lots of crusty bread - and a spare bowl for the empty shells. Don't eat any that refuse to open.



Rhiannon said...

Alternative to fork or fingers - use an empty shell as a tool to pick the mussels out. Can also help to scoop up the sauce at the same time!

bron said...

Sounds like a great idea - I'll try it next time.