Moules for the Marine

Since I returned to meat-eating after a 15-year absence, I have re-immersed myself in; I would like to think, an extensive range of flesh. I’ve eaten more chicken than I can shake a stick at, turkey, pork, beef, and some new restaurant items with tablecloths, like duck and quill. It’s a shame that I haven’t embraced the fruit of the sea. This is a constant reminder of my quest to be able to eat everything. Ruth Reichl mentioned a few months ago that honey is the only food item she will not consume. One thing only! It’s honey!

It’s not just an aversion but a reaction. This is a nonsensical reaction better described in a Psychology 101 text than on a food website. I go into bloodhound mode when I taste a fork-spread bite of seafood. I detect an unpalatable, otherwise undetectable “fishiness,” and panic. Refusing to take an edge is an extreme and illogical reaction. I have told my husband, who loves seafood in all forms and colors. He believes I am joking, but I am not. Never doubt a woman who quotes Moonstruck.

Let’s not dwell on my mistakes! Now, let’s discuss my only seafood success: mussels. It’s not logical to reject a butter-drenched, lobster-tailed delight, but that is where I find myself right now. I can confidently say that this batch was among the best we have ever made. They were a complete success – no mussels returned DOA or refused open. They were also unbelievably tasty and responded to Julia Child’s mariniere soup. What are modules without fries? I paired the baked pommes frites with them. They were the closest thing to the real deal I’ve tasted. (I think it’s the double-cooking in the deep-fried version. It was the best meal we’ve had at home for weeks. We paired it with a Sancerre and crusty bread. With every bite of butter, shallots, and wine-soaked scallops, I felt my anxiety about not being a seafood convert subside.

Two cups of dry white wine or one cup of dry white vermouth
This recipe works well in any 8- or 10-quart enameled pot, but I’ve also made it successfully with other banks.
Half a cup of finely minced green onions or shallots or minced shallots
8 Parsley Sprigs
Half bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon of thyme
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
Six tablespoons of butter
6 quarts scrubbed, soaked mussels
Parsley, roughly chopped: 1/2 cup

Boil all ingredients except the final two in a kettle. Boil the mixture for 2 to 3 mins to evaporate the alcohol and reduce its volume.

Add the mussels to the kettle. Cover tightly and quickly boil over high heat. Hold the lid tightly with both hands and your thumbs. Toss the mussels into the pot in a jerky, up-and-down motion. The mussels will be ready in about 5 minutes when the shells open.

Dip the mussels in wide soup plates using an oversized skimmer. Let the liquid settle for a few moments so that any sand can sink to the bottom. Pour the liquid over the mussels and sprinkle parsley on top. Serve immediately.

Six russet potatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
Black pepper and salt freshly ground

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel the potatoes and slice them into half-inch thick (lengthwise) slices. Cut these into 1/2-inch thick fries. Put the potatoes in a pot and add one tablespoon of sea salt. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the tip of a paring blade can be easily inserted.

Drain potatoes carefully, and place them in a bowl. Add one tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until golden brown.

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