Sometimes The New York Times can be such a tease. Why, you ask? Well, take this article that Julia Moskin wrote in August about the glories of the humble mussel.
I certainly need no prompting to sing the praises of a mussel. So tender, so sweet, so weirdly shaped and colored, so amenable to a myriad of flavors (white wine! shallots! tender tomatoes! basil! lemongrass! coconut milk! red curry! green curry!), so cheap, so plentiful. I mean, who has a problem with mussels (well, besides the Jews and the shellfish allergic)?
So when Julia wrote, in her article, about the way that Sam Hayward of Fore Street in Portland prepared his wood-roasted mussels and described this method as a "single-dish public relations campaign for the long-neglected mussel", furthermore noting that the dish was so good that "that diners have been known to order [it] two or three times in one sitting", I rubbed my greedy hands together and let my eyes jump to the recipe box. I couldn't wait to try it!
But, dear readers, it was not to be. Because Ms. Moskin hadn't printed Fore Street's mussel recipe. Oh no, instead she'd shared a recipe from 25-year old Hugo Bordin, a chef on Il de Re whose family has been fishing mussels (musseling mussels?) since before time began. Oh, sure, he's probably some expert and he's certainly got the lineage to prove it. But didn't Julia realize the pain she'd caused me?
All I wanted was to try the famous Fore Street mussels and short of getting myself to Portland (which, ahem, isn't exactly outside the realm of possibility, but never mind), it wasn't going to happen for me.
Dejectedly, I clipped the Il de Re'ian recipe and let it sit on my desk for a few months until, one Friday night, I found myself with a hankering for a quick shellfish dinner. I bought mussels, a bottle of Muscadet, a little tub of crème fraîche and put myself to work. Up until the mussels were steamed in their winy-oniony mussel-liquor bath, everything worked out just fine. But then I was instructed to remove the cooked mussels from the pan and reduce the liquid into a sauce. Which I started to do. And do. And do. Because have you ever tried reducing more than 2 cups of liquid into a sauce, quickly? Yeah. Didn't think so.
The recipe took a lot longer than the 20 minutes specified, but in its defense, the resulting soup was pretty good. Of course, the delicious soup didn't do much to warm up the mussels that had grown stone-cold waiting for their anointing liquid to reduce. So, I don't know. We ate our bowls of cold mussels and warmish soup and were happy enough, but something nagged at me. I didn't want Bordin's mussel recipe! I wanted Hayward's. The New York Times had whet my appetite and I resented being deterred from my one true goal.
I started typing up this post. Which meant I had to google Sam Hayward. Which brought me to a Food & Wine piece that Nancy Harmon Jenkins wrote on him. And, lo and behold, what did I find in that there piece?
You got it. The recipe.
It'd better be good!
Mussels in White Wine and Crème Fraîche
Yields 2 main course servings or 4 appetizer servings
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 cups white wine
4 pounds mussels
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
Salt and pepper
1. In a wide skillet with a lid, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallot, and stir until very soft and beginning to turn gold, about 5 minutes; do not let them brown. Add thyme and bay leaf and stir. Add wine and 1 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add mussels, cover, and cook until open, about 4 minutes.
2. Transfer mussels to serving bowls with a slotted spoon and boil liquid in the pan until reduced to a sauce. Turn off heat and whisk in crème fraîche and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over mussels and serve with crusty bread.