Mussels with Pastis. Mussels play a pretty big part in my culinary life; in my day job, we sell a lot of them. However it is eating them that really gets me excited. I have already posted recipes I really like to eat. Mussels cooked with beer, steamed with chorizo and in spicy Tom Yam Soup. Today’s recipe is a homage to Jerseys location close to France and another favourite of mine Pastis. The lovely flavours of Anise and liquorice really pair up with the sweetness of the mussels.
What is Pastis?
Pastis is traditionally associated with southern France. But you can find it drunk throughout the country and it is almost as much as a cliché as wearing a beret and playing petanque. However I play petanque but I don’t have a beret yet but never say never. Pastis is similar in flavour to many Mediterranean drinks like Absinthe, Raki, Sambuca, and Ouzo. In fact, when Pastis goes cloudy when water or ice is added it is called the Ouzo effect. Some of these are flavoured with the anise herb, Pastis is flavoured using star anise and liquorice root. The most famous pastis is Ricard made by the French drinks company Pernod Ricard.
Mussels have been part of our diet for hundreds if not thousands of years. There are over a dozen edible species and mussels are eaten around the world. The peak season for the Blue or European mussel is October to March and nearly all UK mussels are now sustainably farmed. Mussels are high in protein and a good source of Zinc and Vitamin B12. Mussels can be smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbecued, battered, or fried in butter or vegetable oil. Allow 500 gr to 750 gr of mussels per person for a really generous portion.
To prepare your mussels first rinse them with plenty of cold running water and throw away any mussels with cracked or broken shells. Next you need to give any open mussels a quick squeeze, if they do not close immediately, throw them away as well as they are dead and not to be eaten and may be poisonous. After that, using a small knife scrape the shell to remove any barnacles or dirt. Pull out any beards by tugging towards the hinge of the mussel shell. If you intend to cook later that day, store in a plastic container in the bottom of your refrigerator covered with a damp tea towel.
What to Drink? Liquorice and aniseed flavours pair well with modern style off-dry Alsace Pinot Gris wines or a crisp dry Cider.
Mussels with Pastis
- Minimum 2 kilos fresh Mussels about 400 gr to 650 gr of mussels per person
- 50 gr unsalted Jersey Butter
- 50 ml quality Olive Oil
- 2 large Spanish Onions peeled and finely sliced
- ½ head Celery washed and diced
- 6 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 200 ml quality Dry White Wine
- 150 ml Pastis
- 1 large sprig of fresh Thyme washed and picked
- A good handful of Flat Leaf Parsley washed, dried, and roughly chopped
- 2 Lemons freshly squeezed zest and juice
- Black Pepper freshly ground
- In a large heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and add the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and thyme and sauté for at least ten minutes to soften them, without colouring.
- Turn up the heat and add the wine, Pastis and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Bring to a simmer. Then tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid.
- Steam the mussels for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Remove from the heat.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir in the parsley, stir and serve with lots of crusty bread.