Mussels are a perennial favourite; don’t skimp on the garlic in this recipe or they will taste rather dull and ‘bready’.
Check that all the mussels are closed. If any are open, tap the mussel on the work top; if it does not close within a few seconds, discard. (The rule with shellfish is always, ‘If in doubt, throw it out’.) Scrape off any barnacles from the mussel shells. Wash the mussels well in several changes of cold water. Then spread them in a single layer in a pan, cover with a folded tea-towel or a lid and cook over a gentle heat. This usually takes 2–3 minutes; the mussels are cooked just as soon as the shells open. Remove them from the pan immediately or they will shrink in size and become tough.
Remove the beard (the little tuft of tough ‘hair’ which attached the mussel to the rock or rope it grew on). Discard one shell. Loosen the mussel from the other shell, but leave it in the shell. Allow to get quite cold.
Meanwhile make the Provençale Butter. Peel and crush the garlic and pound it in a mortar with the finely chopped parsley and olive oil. Gradually beat in the butter (this may be done either in a bowl or a food processor). Spread the garlic butter over the mussels in the shells and dip each one into the soft, white breadcrumbs. They may be prepared ahead to this point and frozen in a covered box lined with cling-film or tin foil.
Arrange in individual serving dishes. Brown under the grill and serve with crusty white bread to mop up the delicious garlicky juices.
© 1990 Darina Allen. All rights reserved.