These days, in many spheres of American public life, compromise is out of fashion. But regardless of what is popular for the times, people appreciate a willingness in others to bend for their sakes.
At the table, Mussels in Snail Butter is a goodwill gesture in the direction of the likes and dislikes of other diners…in this case, a way around an antipathy to eating snails. The garlic and parsley butter usually stuffed into the gastropod’s shell along with the creature, is instead spread over mussels on the half-shell. The flavours and style of preparation are essentially those of Escargots de Bourgogne but….without the escargots.
Mussels with Snail Butter (for 6 people ~ 6 for each person as a First Course: 24 mussels total, but one should purchase 28 since the occasional mussel will fail to open when steamed and will have to be discarded)
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Ingredients I: for Steaming the Mussels
Note: Rather than steaming the mussels using the ingredients listed below, they may be steamed adding only 1/4 cup of water to the pot, bringing it to a boil, adding the mussels and steaming them according to the directions below. However, using the additional ingredients will not only provide cooked mussels for this recipe, but a very good mussel soup for 1 – 2 people to eat with slices of baguette for a Light Lunch.
- 28 Mussels: this is 4 more than the Recipe requires, in case some of the mussels fail to open when steamed and must be discarded
- 3 Tablespoons of chopped Onion
- 1 teaspoon of dried Thyme or 2 teaspoons of fresh Thyme
- 2 cups of dry White Wine
- 1/4 cup of Water
- 1 Tablespoon of Butter
- 2 Tablespoons of fresh Parsley, chopped
Ingredients II: for Making the Snail Butter and Broiling the Mussels
- 8 Tablespoons of Butter, softened
- 6 cloves of Garlic, very finely chopped
- 4 Tablespoons of Parsley, very finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of Lemon Juice
- freshly ground Black Pepper and Salt
- 1/4 cup fine dry Bread Crumbs
- 3 cups of Sel de Mer or any coarse-grained salt: use a cheap variety since the salt is spread on the baking pan to hold the mussels while they broil–not eaten.
Ingredients III: for Serving the Mussels
- Slices of Baguette to accompany the Mussels–most especially, to soak up the sauce as you eat them
- a large, rimmed Baking Sheet
- a deep Pot with a Lid, such as one that is used for cooking pasta
- a Mixer or a Wooden Spoon for mixing together the snail butter
- and at the Table: small cocktail forks or dessert forks for eating the Mussels
I. Steaming the Mussels
1. Debeard the mussels by finding the small thread that extends out of the rounded, closed lips of each mussel and pull it out. (Some of the mussels may not have one …and they aren’t the worse for its absence. On others it will be retracted into the shell and impossible to pull out–forget about debearding them and use them as they are.)
2. Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold salted water and soak the mussels in it for 10 minutes. (This will help cleanse them of any sand or grit.) Rinse them and scrub their outer shells if they have residue on them. There may be white barnacles attached to the mussel shells and these come off easily by giving them a quick blow at their base with the edge of a knife.
3. Melt the Tablespoon of butter in the deep pot over Medium Heat. Add the onion and cook it, stirring, for a few minutes, until it softens.
4. Add the wine, thyme, water, and several grindings of black pepper and salt and bring the liquid to a boil.
5. Add the mussels and sprinkle the parsley over them. The wine and water will not cover them. Lower the heat so that the mussels steam and simmer and put the lid on the pot. The mussels will start to open after 2 or 3 minutes. In about 5 minutes they will all have opened wide and are done. In the photo, some have opened wide,and others have begun to open:
6. Remove the mussels from the broth formed by the wine, herbs and mussel juices and discard any that haven’t opened. Cool the steamed mussels while you make the Snail Butter. (A suggested use for the broth is to reserve it for a Light Lunch for 2: reheat the broth and eat it, just as it is, with slices of baguette.)
II. Making the Snail Butter
1. Place the softened butter in a bowl and beat it well with a mixer or a wooden spoon.
2. Add the finely minced parsley and garlic and mix everything together well.
3. Grind some fresh black pepper and salt into it and mix again. Set the butter aside and prepare the mussels for broiling.
III. Preparing the Mussels for Broiling
1. Scatter the salt over the baking pan. The salt will prevent the mussels from sliding around and will absorb butter that bubbles out over the edge of the shells so that it doesn’t burn and smoke on the tray.
2. Remove the half of each shell to which the mussel is least firmly attached and discard it. Leave the mussels attached to the half-shell if they haven’t come loose during steaming. Replace any mussels into half-shells that have fallen out:
3. Spread about a teaspoonful of snail butter over each mussel and place it on the baking tray. When all the mussels have been filled, divide any remaining snail butter amongst them and sprinkle them all with the dry bread crumbs:
4. Refrigerate the tray of mussels if you are not broiling and serving them right away.
5. To broil and serve the mussels, place the tray of mussels under a hot broiler for about 3 minutes, or until the butter bubbles and the bread crumbs turn golden:
6. Divide the mussels among small plates and serve them with slices of baguette:
A Note: The First Course in the Dinner Menu: An Evening with the Classics is Mussels with Snail Butter.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012