I’ve been thinking about Paris again. I often think about Paris, but this time I mean going there. It’s been four years since my first and last visit–entirely far too long for a Francophile like me–so I’ve been plotting and scheming and counting my pennies. I think I’m going to make it happen next spring. After all, there is nothing like springtime in Paris, non? In the meantime, I’m in the kitchen, inspired to whip up my beloved French dishes.
Instead of my usual steamed mussels, I’ve been baking mussles gratinée. I love them like this, as I do anything with bread crumbs on top–hence the title of this here blog. You need to steam the mussels to open them, but you finish them in the oven with the topping. For added interest, I like to add a dollop of spinach pesto towards the end of the cooking time. The classic accompaniment to mussels, of course, are frites. Or you can serve a salad like this one. Add these little chocolate pots and you have a stunning meal that’s easy to make.
A good rule of thumb for portion sizes is a pound of mussels per person. Mussels are light and people always gobble up more of them than you think they are going to. Plus, when you are cooking mussels you should always discard any that don’t open or open easily, which always reduces the number on the table. Trust me, you don’t want shellfish poisoning. Luckily, I’ve never had any problems with the ones I’ve served, even when I didn’t know what I was doing in cooking them.
It’s quite simple. Scrub each mussel with a brush and pull of any beards. Put about a cup of white wine and a quarter cup of cream, in a large pot with three minced shallots and a handful of chopped parsley. Add a few peppercorns and a dash of salt. Cover the pot and steam the mussels until they open but make sure to not overcook them; they should be barely poached because they will be baked with a breadcrumb mixture. Once they are lightly steamed, take them out of the liquid and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.
To finish them gratinée, you’ll need:
1/2 cup/1 stick/4 ounces (113g) butter
1 cup (100g) panko or thick homemade breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots, minced
1/4 cup (60ml)chopped parsley
spinach pesto (optional)
1) Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until the garlic is just starting to turn golden. Add the breadcrumbs and toss together; fry the mixture for about 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2)Pull the mussels apart so they lay flat on the baking sheet and spoon breadcrumb mixture evenly over top.
3)Bake in 375F/190C oven for about fifteen minutes, until topping is golden. A few minutes before the cooking time is up, top with spinach pesto if desired and return to oven for pesto to warm.
Pots de Crème au Chocolat – Chocolate Pots
Serves 6-8 depending on ramekin size
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 cup(50g) extra finely granulated sugar
1 cup (150) dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup (240ml) milk
1 cup (240g) heavy cream
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1) Preheat oven to 300f/150c. Heat milk, cream, and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat until chocolate is melted. Stir often and take care not to boil.
2) In a bowl, beat eggs, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla with a whisk until pale and creamy. Add cocoa and beat until well incorporated.
3) Whisk in chocolate and milk mixture, pouring in a slow, thin stream so eggs don’t scramble. Pour into ramekins.
4) Place ramekins in a roasting pan. Fill pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until set. The center should be slightly wobbly. Pull from water bath and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Better yet, chill in the fridge. Serve with fresh raspberries.I’m including some snaps from my holiday in Paris four years ago. At the time, I had no inkling that I might get serious about photography and wasn’t as of yet writing about food. I’d always loved food but the trip was a turning point for me, bringing me to new heights of appreciation. A baguette and a hunk of Camembert changed my life. The next time, I’ll definitely look at the city with new eyes.
I did all the touristy things when I was there, like go to the the Eiffel Tower, where I got trapped in the top floor of the elevator with a bunch of strangers and almost had a panic attack since I hate heights and small spaces. It was the only blight on an otherwise fantastic trip.
Next time, I’m going to focus on the food and the photo opps. I started this blog a year after my trip to France and wrote this post about why I love it so much. Paris is now almost a year away, but with the way time has been flying for me lately, it’ll be here before I know it and I can’t wait.
This last one of me was taken in Montmartre. The weather was not great for my trip, but this was the only day where I was caught in the rain and had to cover my hair with my scarf. I may be from Vancouver but I still hate to carry an umbrella.