Monday, January 25, 2010

On the Lees, Please

I made mussels the other night to satisfy a craving that I had (which was probably more for the fries that I always have with mussels, but refuse to make). I considered a Thai-Curry-Lemongrass extravaganza but worried that mine would never live up to the versions I've had in restaurants. I mean, it's kind of a waste if the sauce doesn't turn out. Then what would I do with a lone, 2-foot baguette?

Instead of simply relying on my old standby of mussels steamed in white wine, I added...heavy cream! And more garlic! You know. To make them...different.

Typically "they" say that you should cook with a wine that you would drink, so why not one that you would drink with your meal? Muscadet, a white wine (and region) from the far western reaches of the Loire Valley, is a classic pairing with oysters, so I figured that it would work just as well with mussels. The light, crisp acidity also helps to balance and cut through the richness of the cream sauce. You'll see from the label that this particular Muscadet is from Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, a sub-appellation which is the highest producing in all of the Muscadet region. The bold, "Sur Lie" indicates that the wine has been in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation ("on the lees") during the aging process in order to enhance the flavor and complexity of the wine. (The French have recently - in the last 15 years - regulated the inclusion of the term sur lie on labels to wines that comply with set guidelines.) Now you know everything.

Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels, washed and scrubbed, beards removed (discard any open or broken shells)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Rustic, crusty bread

1. Place a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the butter and garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 - 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels, cover, and cook for 6 - 8 minutes, until the mussels have opened. (Discard any unopened mussels.)

2. Remove the mussels to a serving bowl, leaving the broth in the pot. Add the heavy cream to the broth and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes to thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then stir in the parsley. Pour the broth over the mussels, allowing any sediment (but not garlic!) to remain in the bottom of the pot. Serve with crusty bread if desired. Serves two.

*NOTE: Save any leftover garlic cream sauce and mussels (removed from their shells) to toss with a pasta like fettuccine or cappellini. (I'd show my photo of the pasta, but since I had removed their shells, the mussels just aren't as cute on their own, ya know?)
So here's a mess of garlic instead.


Jennifer said...

I immediately thought of my beloved fries at the first sentence. Love the garlic photo.

stacy said...

Sounds dee-lish and I appreciate the wine education! I would have eaten the entire baguette with that lovely cream sauce.

WendyB said...

Those mussels are all like "We're ready for our closeup, Ms. DeMille."