Do you like mussels? When I was a kid, in the summertime my father used to take us out to eat lots of different seafood, and we even took hikes to the beach in order to catch our own, which he would then eat. Mussels were the most common back in those days, but ever since those carefree times I can't remember eating mussels as often as I did then. So, a few years back, as I was watching Masterchef Australia, one of my favourite contestants, Hayden Quinn cooked up mussels in créme fraiche and I think Pernod, and Gary Mehigan went crazy with that dish, and so did I. It stayed on, at the back of my mind, as something I would really love to try - I mentioned I am not a fan of South American gastronomy, but my imaginary is quite filled up with the french seaside! - but since my husband was not a fan of mussels, I kind of forgot about it. Then the other day it came into my mind, as I was wondering what to cook for dinner, and this was all I was craving, so we hopped onto the car, kid and all, and went off to buy some mussels, so I could cook this dish. The recipe I used was blatantly stolen from one of my food heroes, Rick Stein, and you can find it here. I tweeked it a little, as I always do.
You start by washing 1,5kg of mussels in cold, running water and discarding all those that will not close when you squeeze them lightly. Then you need to cut off the fibrous beards protruding from the inside of the shells and get rid of the barnacles on top of these as well. On a large pan - please do you use the largest pan you can, do not do like me, medium pans just do not cut it!! - soften the garlic and a leek that you have sliced thinly, with a table spoon of olive oil. Add a bouquet garni with thyme, bay leaves and parsley and let it soften a little. Add the mussels and 100ml of white wine - you can use cider as well - turn up the heat, and put the lid on the pan, to steam them open, which shouldn't take more than five minutes. Remember to give the pan a good shake, once in a while.
Once the mussels have opened, remove the bouquet garni and add the cream - one packet is enough - as you check the seasoning, it might need some salt and some pepper. Pour in a handful of roughly chopped parsley and remove from the heat, mixing up with a spoon, so the flavours blend. Serve with warm, crusty bread and chilled white wine, you'll believe you're somewhere around the french coast, enjoying your summer...