Here's yet another winning recipe from Renee Erickson's new cookbook, A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus. It was inspired by mussels she had at a small beachside restaurant in Normandy, where huge needlepoint nudes adorn the walls and guests fetch their own water and bread. The bistro sounds memorable, and the mussels obviously were. Hers are cooked in hard cider with shallots, butter, and Dijon mustard. (This made a beautiful broth all by itself, but why not gild those lilies?) She finishes them with uplifting and enriching lemon juice and crème fraîche, and a good amount of whole tarragon leaves, which perfume the delicious broth. Beautifully relaxed, elegant, evocative, and intensely aromatic, this will score you big points with so little effort.
Why I picked this recipe: I want to be at a seaside bistro in France right now, or at least pretend to be.
What worked: All lovely in my book. The broth was sublime.
What didn't: My husband found the tarragon too strong, but I thought it was perfect.
Suggested tweaks: If you're on the fence about tarragon, go easy. If you love it, go crazy.
(c)2014 By Renee Erickson with Jess Thomson. All rights reserved. Excerpted from A Boat, A Whale & A Walrus: Menus and Stories by permission of Sasquatch Books.
- Yield:Serves 8
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 cups dry hard cider
- 3 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for seasoning
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup loosely packed whole tarragon leaves (no stems)
- Crusty bread, for serving
In a large, high-sided saucepan or soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, add the cider, then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the mussels and cook, covered, until they begin to open, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and begin transferring the mussels that have cooked to a large bowl, stirring and prodding until all the mussels have opened and have been transferred to the bowl. (Discard any mussels that do not open.) Increase the heat to high and simmer the cider for 3 minutes, or until it has reduced by about a third. Season the liquid to taste with lemon juice and salt, then reduce the heat to low. Return the mussels to the pot, add the crème fraîche and tarragon, and stir gently until the mussels are warmed through and coated with the cream. Serve immediately, with the bread.