You see people out and about, tucking into pots of mussels in restaurants, daintily trying to eat them with knives and forks....oh the travesty! The waste! Mussels are meant to be dug into, fingers licked, chins dripped. The are not a dainty dish, nor are they for the weak hearted, first date or meeting the inlaws.
Mussels should be eaten using the shell as both a spoon and extraction implement. Use a gentle back and forth motion on the top portion of the mussel shell to detach it from the bottom shell. This only needs to be done for the first mussel. Hold the bottom shell with one hand and use the upper shell as a scoop to scrape the mussel from the lower section. Bring the shell to your lips and allow the mussel to slide into your mouth, with a good splash of the cooking juices.
Three things you will need to have handy:
- A finger bowl
- Paper towels/serviettes
- A bowl to dump all the empty shells in.
Now you know how to eat them, get cooking a pot now and enjoy!
1kg/2.2lbs fresh mussels
115g/4oz unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped 200ml/7fl oz dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1-2 fresh red chillis, or 1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes (less or more depending on your personal chilli taste)
large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
crusty baguette sliced, to serve
To prepare the mussels, pull away the beard from around the shell and scrub with a stiff brush under cold running water.
Heat 50g/2oz of the unsalted butter in a large saucepan. When hot and foaming add the garlic, shallots, wine, bay leaf and chilli. Cook over a medium heat until the shallots are soft and translucent.
Bring the shallots and wine mixture to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the saucepan, gently shake the pan and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that remain closed after cooking or are shriveled. Be careful as you do this, and don't burn your arm like I did!
Strain the mussels over a large saucepan using a colander and set aside. Place the mussels into a large bowl. Retain the mussel juices in the pan and return to the heat. Add the parsley and remaining butter and bring to the boil.
Pour the juices over the mussels and serve with a big pile of crusty bread.
Adapted from a recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson