>As mentioned yesterday, I have joined two online cooking blog communities. Whisk: A Food Blog is the second site and every Wednesday a group of people will make the same dish from Le Cordon Bleu at Home. French food and cooking is quite unfamiliar to me as this particular cuisine isn’t known for its vegetarian-friendly fare, but I am up to the challenge. It also helps that Matt will eat, or at least try, anything I place in front of him. I’m also pleased whenever I get to cook with wine; somehow a glass ends up right next to the stove top.
Even though I do not eat seafood, I know I will be able to serve the best of it by living in the Pacific Northwest. However, mussels worried me just a bit. In my meat eating days I could not stand anything of the bivalve mollusk variety and never learned to cook them.
Henry, Fierce Defender of Halleck Street, has placed his head in the tote bag I brought the mussels home in. When he comes out for air his face is smeared with his own saliva and he is grunting in a tone that I haven’t heard since the great Crab Cake Disaster of 2006. It’s only a matter of time before he leaps into the sink, so I better get cracking on this soup.
Without further ado, Billy Bi aux Paillettés (or Mussel Soup with Cheese Straws for those who did any and everything to avoid taking French in school).
Before prepping everything, I took care of a vital step by popping open that bottle of white, only to have the bottom of the damn corkscrew break off and stay affixed to the bottle. Never fear. The smooth plastic was actually quite form fitting to ones lips. I believe French cooking just obtained a new fan.
2 pounds mussels
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 cup dry white wine
8 cups water
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp chives, chopped
* In a large pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat
* Add shallots and cook until soft
* Add wine, water and celery; bring to a boil
While this was heating up, I cleaned the mussels by removing any barnacles and cutting the beards. I let them soak is a large container in the sink with the faucet running into it.
* Add mussels to the boiling pot until the shells open
At this point, it should be noted that I did feel a guilty sting. I was about to send these little guys, who up until this morning were enjoying a pleasant life of sleeping, to their deaths. I assured them it was a noble way to go: butter and cream.
If we could all be so lucky.
* Once the shells open, remove mussels and set aside
* Strain liquid well (remove all traces of sand) and return to the pan
* Remove mussels from shells and put half into the pan
* Bring to a boil and reduce the heat
* Cook until liquid measure about 6 cups
* Strain the liquid again and squeeze every last drop out of those mussels
* Discard crushed mussels
* Heat remaining butter over medium heat and whisk in flour: cook for a few minutes
* Add strained cooking liquid and whisk well: cook for 20 minutes
* Add cream and bring to a boil
* Remove from heat and add the mussels
* Wait 5 minutes for mussels to adjust to temperature
* Serve and garnish with chives
→ I made the soup way in advance and added the cream and mussels once the dinner guests finished their salads so everything would be fresh and hot.
→ I was surprised at how easy this soup was to make; I had it stuck in my head that I could never make a French dish because of all the daunting steps.
→ That being said, the dish does require some time and clean-up. I have the luxury of being jobless, so I was able to clean everything up before the guests arrived.
→ This dish could use some salt. Granted, I did not taste anything, but I did add some salt during the cooking process and my official taste tester stated it as well.
→ Next time I plan on looking for smaller mussels to (hopefully) obtain more meat. Seems most of the weight was attributed to really large shells and not a lot of meat.
→ When discarding the crushed mussels, I should have just tossed them into the cats’ food bowl. This would have avoided the garbage can catastrophe carried out by Henry, Fierce Defender of Halleck Street and Lily, the Aloof Princess. I just followed the coffee ground foot prints to find the two of them fighting over the last bit of tissue.
While the various pots and utensils were being cleaned in the dishwasher, I got started on one of the most delicious combinations I’ve ever heard: pastry puff and cheese.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 – 3/4 cup cold water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
14 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pastry puff is a lot like making your own pasta:
* Mix the flours well
* Make a mound on your work surface and make a well in the center
* Add salt, 2/3 cup water and the melted butter to the well
* Gradually mix the flour in with the liquids by “pulling” into the center
* Add the remaining water if dough is dry
* Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes
Leave it to the French to have intricate instructions about incorporating the remaining butter. I’m sure there is an official culinary reason for it, but I just gently kneaded in butter.
* Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and a little larger (in length and width) than your baking sheet
* Drape dough over baking sheet and trim to fit
* Brush with egg and prick surface with fork (all over)
* Sprinkle with cheese; press into dough
* Refrigerate for 20 minutes
* Cut into strips (1/2 inch x 3 inch)
* Bake at 450ºF for 15 minutes and cool on a rack
→ I failed to read the part about cutting the dough into 1/2″ x 3″ strips. I made my cuts a lot longer and rolled them up and gave them a twist before baking.
→ Along with the Parmesan, I added grated Gruyère. Let it be known: you can never have too much cheese.
I apologize for the lack of photographs of the prepared meal. Two of the dinner guests were four year old twin girls (I made them chicken fingers and tater tots), so I was distracted and didn’t even think about taking some pictures until dessert was served.
Just an excuse to make it again.
To find out how everyone did, click here.