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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gallic Inspiration: Moules Mariniere

I think if there is one place I could travel to over and over, it's France. There are few places in this world that soothe my culinary soul the way France does. It is quite clear to me as to why this is: It is the marriage of food and travel. Here you can enjoy the world's finest cuisine in celebrated restaurants as well as the little unpretentious gems frequented by the locals and all of this highly accessible thanks to a fantastic and extensive train system and Grade 12 French class.

And of course, my return luggage is a Canadian Customs officer's curiousity. They unzip my luggage only to find a chef's menagerie of sel gris, truffle oil, herbes de provence, wine, dark chocolate, and whatever exotic Gallic delights the country offers me. I have learned overtime, you can't bring back butter, or foie gras laced with black truffles no matter how much you plead. And boy do I try.

During our last visit to France, we took the train to Dieppe in the northern province of Normandy. We had spent the better part of the week exploring the fine cuisine Paris had to offer and now we craved soemthing more rustic and indicative of how people eat everyday.

The town of Dieppe is several hours away from Paris and we enjoyed the slow langourous ride through the French countryside. Rolling pastoral green fields stretch out beyond the horizon, occasionally interupted by small farmhouses frame after frame like pages of National Geographic. It was serene.

When we arrived in Dieppe, there was a distinct smell that city people don't experience often: the sharp metallic smell of the sea. It is a briny and strangely fresh smell that appeals to anyone who loves seafood. It's the smell of that kind of fresh. As we strolled past the many seaside bistros, it became apparently clear what the part of Normandy had to offer us today: Mussels.

Every bistro along the boat quay advertised its the daily special on hinged blackboards out front. It beckoned like a siren to hungry tourists to stop in for a little lunch in the seaside beach town. Moules et frites. Mussels and fries. Who could resist the shiny onyx shells lured open by a fragrant boozy steam to reveal dedicate saffron coloured mollusks in light garlic studded broth and a large bowlful of crisp delicate potato matchsticks and creamy pale mayonaise? So we stopped in and ordered huge bowls of steamy mussels and watched as boats bob up and down and fashionable French tourists wondered if they should stop for a bite. It was ridiculously contagious.

But today, we were at home missing that day. So, we decided when we were at St. Lawrence Market this morning, we would take a peek at the huge tank of PEI mussels at the fishmonger's. If the stars were aligned, we were going to have a delicious lunch that would transport us back to that summer day by the sea in Northern France.

Moules Mariniere
2 pounds of PEI mussels (bearded & cleaned)
1 small onion - diced
1/2 small pepper - diced
2 small carrots - sliced into coins
1 c of halved baby heirloom tomatoes
1/2c of white dry vermouth
3 cloves of crushed garlic (we love garlic)
1 tbsp of butter

In a pot large enough to hold the mussels, melt the butter until it is foamy and hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened. Turn down the heat slightly and add the peppers, and carrots. Cook until the vegetables start to soften. Add the cleaned mussels to the pots and pour the vermouth on top. Cover. After two minutes, add the tomatoes to the pot and cover the pot again. Steam until the mussels open. Pour into a large serving dish and serve with slices of cursty baguette or fries.

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Food lover said...

I love Mussels. Baguette and Mussels are the best combination. I could inhale the whole baguette with just the sauce. Very nice pictures.

Calista said...

Your blog is better and better.

Fine French adventure.

Food is something we need and I'm always impressed when meet someone who enjoys it so much.

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