Tradition has it that the farming of mussels in the Vendée dates back to 1237, when an Irish skipper,
|dry white wine, preferably gros plant|
|salt and pepper|
|double cream or crème fraîche*|
Clean the mussels* and put them in a large pot. Cover and cook dry over a high fire, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until they open. Discard the top shell of each and transfer the mussels to a deep serving dish, reserving the liquid. Cover the mussels and keep them warm.
Heat half the butter in a frying pan, add the onions and cook over a low fire, stirring, until soft but not brown. Then raise the heat and brown them lightly. Stir in the garlic and cook another 30 seconds; pour in the wine and cognac and flame them. Add the saffron with its liquid, the spices and pepper. Slowly pour in the mussel liquid, leaving behind any grit. Boil to reduce for 1 minute or until well flavoured.
Mix the remaining butter and the flour to a paste, forming a rich kneaded butter*.
Just before serving, heat the sauce and stir in the cream. Bring to a boil and whisk in the kneaded butter, a little at a time, until the sauce thickly coats a spoon. Simmer for 1-2 minutes and taste for seasoning: extra salt may not be needed, since the mussels are salty. Strain the sauce over the mussels and serve immediately.
© 1981 Anne Willan. All rights reserved.