Tender Mussels in Cider
Moules à la Normande

The waters off the coast of Normandy are filled with sweet mussels and we eat them often. I like this preparation with its local hallmark of apple cider vinegar and the region’s hard apple cider, which sets off perfectly the sweetness of the mussels.

Serve these in Norman fashion, with plenty of fresh bread and sweet butter and hard cider.

6 pounds (3kg) mussels

1 cup (about 10g) firmly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 small shallots, sliced in half then cut in paper-thin slices

4 dried, imported bay leaves

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

¼ cup (60ml) hard apple cider

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Just before cooking the mussels de-beard them. (To de-beard mussels, gently but firmly pull out the byssus, or group of fine threads that hang from their shells). Rinse them well in cool fresh water and place them in a large stockpot. Coarsely chop the parsley and add it, along with the shallots, bay leaves and cider vinegar. Shake the pot so that all the ingredients are blended, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. When it is boiling reduce the heat to medium high and cover the pot. Cook the mussels until they just open, shaking the pan from time to time so the mussels cook evenly. Once the mussels are open, continue to cook for an additional minute, checking the mussels frequently and removing those that are wide open so they don’t over cook. If, after two to three minutes there are mussels that refuse to open, discard them as they are either dead or empty.
  2. Transfer the cooked mussels to a large serving bowl, or simply return all of the mussels to the stockpot. Season them generously with pepper and serve.

6 to 8 servings

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