During, the summer, fresh mussels are an easy and inexpensive dish without complications. I am going to prepare in three different styles, and we shall discover the fabulous world of compound butters or beurres composés and learn how shellfish has emerged in France. Come on! «A serving of Moules-frites, s’il vous plaît!»
In September, the big auctions and sales in Lille take place. It is the most important trade fair in northern France. However, most remarkably, the objects that we find there are not the most important, what is, are the mountains of empty mussel shells that accumulate in front doors of the restaurants …
The famous Moules-frites with a cold beer, that’s life! It is also a good inexpensive treat. I am going to show you three options of how mussels are arranged in my country. The mussel, creates a very graceful plate, and relatively speaking, mussels are inexpensive and can be adorned marvelously in uncountable ways … and Voila, you have a stunning plate.
Every year, during the first weekend of September, the city of Lille (in the cardinal point north of France) becomes the centre of the mussel Universe. For two days, more than two million people cross the city center in search of a bargain and take a break to eat the traditional moules-frites. The route, seems to be like a giant flea market, where not only the professionals have a place, but ordinary people can also be sell all the items that they no longer wish to keep as in Yard or Garage sales.
One caveat: if you are agoraphobic, or claustrophobic … don’t go, is absolutely insane.
Lille, the land of Ch’tis, apart from being the dialect, this «buzzword» arose in the First World War when soldiers called «poilus» his fellows of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
This had emerged from this dialogue, so you can imagine, inside the trenches at night … «Ch’est ti? –Ch’est mi” …»Is that you? – Yes, it is. «Another point: the soldiers of the First World War were called poilus-furry-because they did not have anything to shave with, amongst other common needs.
I am sharing an excerpt from the film that made him famous internationally, the dialect of Ch’timis, the film is fantastic, I refer to all the love and respect I have for all colorful mosaics that make the French language: «Bienvenue chez les ch’tis «.
Lille is a city in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, near the border with Belgium. This area has been profoundly steeped in relics of the Bronze Age. Its name, meaning, The Island, without more, owes its nickname for being among the branches of the river Deûle, which are navigable and during the early Middle Ages, the 9th century, and was a vassal of France Conté, County of Flanders. To constantly be aware, of the invading, looting by the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings also, the population was always worried about fortifying the island. The most remarkable architectural example is the Citadelle, a small town surrounded by star-shaped fortifications. Work , done by the Marquis de Vauban, under the reign of Louis XIV. Obviously since then, the city has been «overwhelmed»-it was not my intention to make a pun-. The buildings of the old town are very colorful, I guess to counteract the cloudy weather.
Okay, let’s go back to, the rummage sale’s history and, why mussels are the protagonists.
The braderie comes from the Flemish braden, which means grilling, roast … in the twelfth century, all traders in the world (yes, the whole world!), were exceptionally authorized to sell their products at the Foire de Lille or FrancheFoire (today thus referred to all medieval festivals). This event lasted one week, and each time, the duration was lowered due to improved roads, which allowed people to go and buy more often.
«The Bradierie de Lille» by François Watteau …I have the impression that the fight scene in the bottom center of the picture…Any lady with petticoats face up …
In 1446, a couple of very clever poultry traders had the idea to set up a stall to sell herring and chicken cooked with permission «to sell» … I mean, probably the name of the show derives from the fact, that the two men decided to feed people at the same time they came to buy. But how clever!
In the sixteenth century, the sales extended as the famous Yard sales: domestic staff got special permission to sell the objects used by their employers … At night, because the authorization started at sunset and ended at sunrise. They strived to sell very fast, hence they had to slash or lower prices, or barter, what it means in modern French.
Over the years, fewer and fewer traders came and more and more artists and bourgeois (bourgeois is the one who sells manufactured products) arrived. It was then, in the late nineteenth century, that French fries came into play. The mussels come later! During that period, between the two wars braderie had little to offer. While «bradeux» walked the streets in search of a bargain, they had stopped to eat the famous moules-frites.
Restaurants in town are created food contests or challenges: to see who has the greatest amount of empty shells in front of their property … What a madness!
In 2009, they had consumed in two days, five hundred tons of mussels! You can’t see me, but my jaw dropped to my heels … I’m shocked!
Lately, moules-frites share space with merguez and kebabs (merguez are halal beef sausages, and in Spain we say “Moorish skewer” for kebab). I also would like to add, In English they are simply called Beef Kebabs, using the type of meat as an adjective. Please do not feel offended by the literary term, «Moorish».
In my personal opinion, as a matter of pride, not offending, if a culinary preparation is baptized by political and geographical origin. We don’t we say French-fries Or Cigarette russe (wafers)… French fries is an old term used since the time of Thomas Jefferson in the USA.
I feel proud that the world recognizes and names a culinary preparation, whatever it is after my natal country.
Mussels, I love them! I eat them in all possible ways and better, since you can buy ready to eat cleaned ones … is wonderful. To be honest, many housewives, home gourmets and I suppose, have to pull back, rub and rub the whiskers of the cursed mollusk, doing so for many years. I did not consume many mussels because of this reason, but nowadays you can find everything to take away ,you don’t need to boil an egg if you don´t want to !
The most famous in France are those of the variety with denomination of origin Bouchot, I remember when I accompanied my grandmother to the market and always asked: – «four pounds of Bouchot, s’ilvous plait!«
All things considered, actually all mussels nowadays are bouchot … Let me explain: the bouchot is a wooden and at shallow depths, you have to contend with the tides and collect mussels at low tide. This facilitates the entrenchment of this mollusc, in fact, the shellfish had never been successful in the English Channel due to strong currents, naturally, are only be found on the rocks.
«Nice and clean» mussels are cultivated and found in the area of La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, in the Atlantic, then, in a protected area called, pertuisor drain, as l’îlede Ré and Îled’Oléron… huître fine d’Oléron …
We’ll talk about them. Being protected, sea bi-valves, grow and produce a byssus or sea silk. Therefore, they are the most appreciated in the French market.
Anecdotally, the legend says that this way of growing molluscs with poles, emerged from an Irish castaway in 1235, Patrick Walton, the only survivor of a shipwreck, trying to survive on the coasts of Charente. Planting two pickets and hanging a fishing net, to hunt birds and some fish, with little success. However, it was a good place for the young mussels to create a home and take root.Walton planted more and more pickets.
Dr. Barry Sears (Diet Zone) says we owe the fact to be intelligent to these molluscs, and by necessity, the primeval man in Africa sought food in the sea and found that mussels feed on phytoplankton,algae… Omega 3 in vein! It has long been entitled, the food for the development of brain intelligence.
The etymology of bouchot comes from the contraction of the English words «bout Choat» or wooden fence. Its main objectives are to protect the mussels from coming in contact with the sand and parasites such as crabs, I would say that the crabs are predators … but I’m not the expert …
So … the invention arose by chance and ingenuity of an Irish man, but on French soil, so … It’s French. Hahahaha!
I have prepared three different ways to serve mussels. A seafood with cream, or mouclade charentaise rocheloise, and filled with a beurre composé, that is butter “cold sauce” (like sweet butter cream, do you see what I mean?) which is used for snails or escargots de Bourgogne, for example. Mouclade comes from Moucle signifies, mussels in charentish patois
Les beurres composés, are very versatile and can turn a simple steak or fish, in a gourmet experience … Imagine a Sunday night, nothing in the fridge and you don’t want to cook. You take pasta from the cabinet or pantry, take out from the freezer, a few slices of truffle Royal butter that you have saved… Oh, my God!
According to Chef Patrick Asfaux, beurres composés are the forgotten of modern cookbooks. From here we’re going to do justice with a little reminder of basic beurrescomposés. The principle is always the same: a bar of butter cream point, mixed and crushed with one or more ingredients, and preserved in boudin wrapped in plastic film. You can freeze and take only as needed. You don’t have to be afraid to use salted butter, or add 5 grams of salt too, be aware that this is going to be all about dressing your beef or fish, when you melt the butter.
Beurre Maître d’hôtel (classic among classics to the chef Asfaux)
100g softened butter, 4 grams of salt and ground black pepper to taste a bit of lemon juice, mix 15 seconds, add a tablespoon of chopped parsley.
Ideal for grilled meats, entrecôte … or grilled fish with boiled vegetables like green beans, potatoes …
Beurre de Montpellier
Blanch in boiling water a few leaves of parsley, chervil, tarragon, spinach, chives, move to cool them in ice water, drain. Combine with some shallot caper buds, 1 sweet-sour pickle (cornichon russe in French … tiens, tiens!), 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, 2 anchovy fillets, salt, pepper and a splash of EVOO, finally add a boiled egg roughly mince. When this is done, blend gently with butter cream.
It is the ideal companion for cold salmon, cold white meats like veal, chicken, or roasted pork. It’s ideal for a pique-nique.
100 g butter, 30 g of cooked marrow, 20 gr of finely chopped shallot, 1 dl of white wine, 5 g of salt and a little pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon herbs or parsley also chopped. Halvethe wine with the shallot, let cool. Mixar 15 seconds the butter with juice salt and pepper. Finally add the herbs and mix everything using a wooden spoon.
Ideal for beef and grilled fish to Meunière.
Chop 30 g of fresh or dried dill and shallot in a bowl and mix with butter and 5 cl anisette liquor (Ricard, Pernod), using a whisk.
Care for fish, shellfish, fresh pasta and roast lamb.
There is also the garlic-butter, anchovies, canons or fresh tarragon, Roquefort, the beurre Colbert, beurre Marchand de vin, the «Royal de truffes» ,Suzette you already know, the beurre d’éscargots, beurre de sardines ideal, slathered on toast. And beurre d’oranges, wonderful to accompany scallops, veal or pork tenderloin.
For the stuffed mussels, I have developed a garlic butter, parsley and chopped hazelnuts, anise seed, I assure, when you gratin it… Umh, What a flavorings! Some scallops and that butter, it’s delicious to death! You can find frozen scallops at supermarket.
Moules Marinières à la Crème fraîche
Ingredients (quantities per person for an entrée, one pound raw mussels , clean, and 1 to 1 and 1/2 for a plate)
2 liters of mussels
1 glass of white wine
1 bouquet garni of herbs of your choice (celery, thyme, parsley …) in the north of France celery is more appreciated to cook.
1 onion or shallot
Some lemon slices
40 cl of cream
3 egg yolks
Introduce into a saucepan all ingredients except cream, sweat a little the shallot first.
Place over high heat until the mussels open, will not take more than 5 minutes. Reserve Mussels and remove one of the two mullusks. Drain the liquid. Turn Off the heat, and add the cream mixed with the yolks and beat vigouresly.
Pour the mixture over the mussels and consume immediately accompanied by a French fries. Not to mention a cold beer, of course it is like the Three Musketeers, you can‘t miss one without the other, without the other …
Mouclade charentaiseor à la Rocheloise
(being a major seaport, even today, it was common to find in the kitchen of the Poitou-Charentes dishes which are spiced by communion of cultures)
The same as for the previous recipe, plus: curry, cayenne, turmeric … or saffron. At least a tablespoon of each, except the cayenne just one tip of knife please.
Just the same way you did à la marinière, but adding spice to the cream.
My Stuffed mussels
2 liters of mussels
Proceed to open the mussels with seafood with the same ingredients as the basis for Marinière without cream
For butter À ma façon:
8-10 cloves of garlic
250 g salted butter.
1 bunch of parsley
2 stalks celery
70 gr of hazelnuts
One tablespoon of anise, pepper
Mix, chopped herbs and garlic very fine with hazelnuts and pepper. Combine the butter using a wooden spoon. At this point, place the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap turns, give a cylindrical shape, and let stand a few hours in the fridge or overnight better.
Open the mussels as you know the basic recipe for mussels
Remove one mollusk, and arrange in a baking dish on a bed of rice or coarse salt,to prevent movement.
Arrange slice of butter on each mussel, and grill for a few minutes around.
It’s ready to serve with some French fries and a good cold beer .