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[Photograph: Georgia Glynn Smith]

According to Rachel Allen, mussels with bread crumbs were immensely popular in Ireland back in the 1980s. Yet their retro appeal holds true today and her version in Rachel's Irish Family Food is anything but kitschy. Plump, just-steamed mussels get a quick trip under a hot broiler topped with super buttery bread crumbs laced with garlic and parsley. The final result is a briny, succulent bite, colorful and rich.

Why I picked this recipe: Despite many years of steaming mussels in countless bowls of broth, I've never opened them up and broiled them with a topping.

What worked: The buttery, garlicky bread crumbs were a delightful contrast to the creamy mussels.

What didn't: These tasty morsels are super hard to eat without making a mess, so be sure to serve with napkins! If you tend to take little "tastes" of things like buttered bread crumbs while cooking, you'll probably want to go up on the mixture by another 1/2 cup or so. As written, there is just enough of the mixture to top the mussels.

Suggested tweaks: Before topping the mussels, run your knife under the flesh to cut the abductor mussel. That way, the topped and broiled mussels will slide right into your mouth. Allen suggests adding cilantro and red pepper flakes to the bread crumb mixture in addition to the parsley to punch things up a bit.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Rachel's Irish Family Food to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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