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The Secret Ingredient (Pastis): Pastis and Persillade Stuffed Mussels

[Photographs: Kerry Saretsky]

Traditional moules-frites are so popular that we often forget their equally delicious cousins: moules-farcies, or stuffed mussels, broiled in the oven and served something like clams casino.

Persillade is a traditional mix of parsley and often garlic, and it is the way I have most frequently encountered stuffed mussels. Sometimes they come with a broiled crust of Parmesan latticed over the top, but in this rendition, I lighten up the flavors with a splash of anise-d Pastis. The butter and the Pastis, under the hot sun of the broiler, collapse down into the half-shell mussels, as the garlic softens and sweetens and the crumbs crust into molehills of flavor.

Pastis was first created as a foil to its anise-flavored cousin Absinthe. Less alcoholic and lacking an allegedly hallucinogenic ingredient, Pastis, around the turn of the twentieth century, became less a nighttime trip and more an afternoon aperitif. Also unlike its green progenitor, Pastis is bottled with sugar, so it is a liqueur, and not a spirit.

When not paired with mussels, Pastis is generally served in a glass, alongside a jug of water and often a pile of ice cubes. Then, the drinker can chill and dilute the spirits as he wishes. My favorite part is watching the translucent liquor turn cloudy, like an afternoon science experiment, when the water sinks into the Pastis, transforming instantly from clear skies to rain clouds.


Pastis and Persillade Stuffed Mussels

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.

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