My birthday feast would not be complete without seafood. So what can be affordable and available in Croatia this time of the year but Mussels. Dagnja as it is called in Croatian was going at 20 kn a kilo. Mr M promised to buy that as my birthday treat and I got a whooping TWO kilos of Mussels!
Let's talk a little about Mussels and how my love for it started. The very first time I tried them was during my trip to Le Mont St Michel. For a mere 11 euros, we got a big bowl of Moules Marinière (about some 40 of them in there!) and I gobbled all of them up including the soup was wiped dry with some good french baguette. That was my most unforgettable experience with Mussels. And the taste lingered. I longed to eat them again but sadly the bi-valve molluscs aren't as widely available in many countries as I hoped. I wondered why until I read up the article on Wikipedia. What we could get in Singapore are mostly frozen and imported from New Zealand or China. Most people would settle for the large NZ green-lipped Mussels but I craved for the smaller Blue Mussels with the lingering smell of sea.
Luckily for me, Croatia is one of the few places where fresh Mussels are caught daily and sold on the market. And yes, they are my favourite Blue Mussels! Yummy!!! The good ol' days are back. These beauties reminded me of those days working at Le Pont de la Tour restaurant when kilos of molluscs were cooked in wine and the sweetness of fresh mussels were captured in this simple method of cooking!!
For those who longed to make Moules à la marinière at home, let's start with the cleaning. Take a look each mussel and you'll see a beard sticking out from the shell. This is called the Byssal Thread. Carefully remove it using a paring knife or simply give it a tug. This beard is attached to the little softie inside and it seems this beard has a sentimental value. So it might take a little more effort for the mussel to let go. Rinse the shells under water or your soup will be filled with sand! Do take note that the mussels do not enjoy being washed or cleansed unless you wish to consume it within an hour. Else transfer the mussels into a container (without a lid) cover it with a moist cloth or pieces of wet newspapers and store them in the coldest part of your fridge (not freezer!!!).
Dead or alive? Before cooking, any cracked or opened (that doesn't shut if you disturb the flesh) molluscs should be discarded. Mussels open up when they are cooked. Sometimes you might see a few reluctant ones, don't worry they are not stale.
Moules à la marinière.. Mussels cooked in White Wine. This is a french favourite and you can find it in Belgian Brasseries or French restaurants. Served with Pommes Frites (french fries) and bread. (And complete with Belgian beer.) For the curious ones, Marinière refers to Mariner or Sailor. Here's the recipe link. I have omitted Garlic from my dish and added a handful of chopped carrots (fennel will be a nice addition too). I'm not a fan of cream as well so I'd stick to clear mussel soup.
That's it for today. Hope you try this dish out. Don't forget Mussels are an excellent source of Selenium and Vitamin B12 while being very low in fats. What a lovely treat for a hot summer's day!