Normandy Mussel Pot
Traditionally eaten in months with an "r" in it, today rope grown mussels make it possible to enjoy these bivalves year round. Purchase a hefty loaf of bread, slice it thickly (about 1/2"), drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and grill on one side to sop of the delicious sauce at the bottom of the mussel bowl. The thinner and longer the leek the more tender.
4 pounds mussels
2 cups dry cider
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Small handful parsley stalks
16 black peppercorns
6 ounces heavy cream
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 medium-sized leeks, washed, and sliced into 1/4" rounds and then halved (reserve a few for garnish)
1/4 cup hard cider or Calvados (apple brandy)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Thickly sliced grilled or toasted bread, for serving
1. Wash the mussels, scrubbing any barnacles and removing any beards. Tap any open mussel on the side of the sink. If it doesn’t close, throw it away.
2. Rinse the mussels again and put them in a LARGE POT with the cider, onion, parsley stalks, and peppercorns. Cover and cook over a medium heat for about four minutes, or until the mussels have opened, shaking the pot a couple of times.
3. Remove the mussels to a bowl, tossing any that have not opened. Strain the cooking juices through a fine meshed sieve to get rid of any grit left by the mussels when they opened.
4. Boil the cooking liquor and reduce it to about 2 cups liquid. Add the Calvados and cook for 2 minutes more.
5. Add the cream and the crème fraîche to the reduced liquor and cook until the mixture has thickened a little.
6. Melt the butter in a SAUTÉ PAN and cook the leeks gently until soft but not colored, 12 to 15 minutes (add a splash of water every now and then to keep the leeks moist).
7. Add the sauce to the leeks and bring to the boil, then immediately turn down the heat.
8. Add the reserved mussels to heat them through and divide the mussels among soup plates.
9. Pour a bit of the cooking liquid over each bowl, scatter with parsley and some julienned strips of fresh leeks, and pass the bread for sopping up the sauce.