When I think of the northeast, I think of apples. Of nippy fall days, and a plethora of laden apple trees. Naturally, apple cider follows, and naturally, some scrumptious eats can be made with such riches. But seafood? The answer is yes. Sean shows us why! – Amy
Stare at a mussel shell for long enough and you’ll start to see the ocean on a stormy afternoon: a seascape of breaking white water, teal-coloured waves and dark, almost black, skies on a tiny shell canvas. These hardy little creatures cling to rocky outcrops across the world, hidden at high tide, exposed at low, and constantly battered by the restless seas. I suppose it’s only natural that mussels taste fresh with a hint of briny sea air, as if infused with the gentlest of nature’s spices. They say eating an oyster is like kissing the ocean; a mussel then, is a quick and friendly peck on the cheek.
Around any coastline, mussels are fast food. A few handfuls thrown into a pan and finished with white wine can be in a bowl in five minutes. Most of us are familiar with the French classic moules marineres, but replacing the white wine with hard cider is a simple trick that adds a touch of wintery warmth to the dish. The essence of cooking mussels is to keep it simple: the cider, shallots and butter steam cook the mussels and impart a beautiful flavour that’s just so moreish. A pound of mussels is a good starting point per person, but I can happily work my way through two pounds over a lazy lunch. No mussel dish is complete without a fresh crusty loaf on the table, essential for mopping up those sweet cider juices.
Cider Steamed Mussels
- 2 ½ lbs fresh mussles – cleaned
- 2 lrg shallots – finely diced
- 1 dessert apple – finely diced
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 6 fl. oz hard cider
- 3 fl. oz heavy cream
- 2 oz butter
- Handful of flat leaf parsley – roughly chopped
- Clean the mussels if necessary. Put the mussels in a sink and fill with cold water. If heavily barnacled or dirty, I give them a scrub, but usually, a quick wipe with the fingers will do. Remove the beards (the hairy strands) by pulling hard and discard any dead mussels. To check for dead ones, find any that are open and give them a little tap on a surface, it they start to close, they’re find, if not, they’re dead and should not be used.
- Place a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the butter and once melted, add the shallots, apple and thyme. Cook slowly for a good ten minutes without browning the shallots. This gives the dish a rich, complex flavour, so try not to be impatient here.
- Turn up the heat. Add the mussels and pour over the hard cider. Stir the juices around the mussels until the cider comes to the boil. Then place a lid over the saucepan to steam the mussels. Every minute or so, remove the lid and stir the mussels. They should slowly start to open as they cook.
- Once they are all nearly open, add a dash of cream and stir around. Cook for another minute or so, until all the mussels have opened. The mussels should not take more than 5 minutes. Any that have not opened at this point should be discarded. Add a handful of parsley and serve up with lots of finger bowls and lots of bread.
Photos taken and styled by Sean.
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