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Celebrate the Season of Seafood

Posted on November, 24 2014
Each fall, we eagerly await the opening of Dungeness crab season in the San Francisco Bay Area. But did you know there’s a season for each of our favorite ocean delights?

Mussel season just opened and Laurent was invited to join friends along the Marin County coast for a mussel harvesting and cook out party. He had harvested mussels in France, but this was his first experience harvesting in the States.

Chef Laurent harvesting mussels

Setting out towards the beach, Laurent and his friends were amazed to find thousands of glossy black mussels covering the rocky landscape. Armed with gloves and prying tools, the group was able to collect nearly six pounds of mussels in 15 minutes! Marveling at the bounty, Laurent was informed that this particular variety could not be commercially harvested since they could not withstand storage. The mussels they did collect went straight into bags, and then packed on ice (never in ice), and were cooked within hours. It was a fabulous coastal feast!

Our love of fresh seafood is evident – not just

Fruits de Mer

 in the way we cook and eat, but also in our travels. When Laurent and I were in France this past summer, we enjoyed numerous meals of fish and shellfish. One in particular, Fruits de Mer, was a highlight. An impressive platter of raw and cooked seafood, it can include any combination of oysters, shrimp, lobster, crab, langoustine, mussels, clams, and periwinkles (a tiny sea snail). The seafood is typically piled high on a bed of ice, and served with mignonette (a sauce made with shallots, vinegar and white pepper), lemon and fresh mayonnaise. We’ve enjoyed this with friends for a casual lunch, and also paired it with champagne for a celebratory feast. As Laurent likes to say, “it’s a dish of generosity, extravagance, and a bit of showmanship,” but it’s really is a feast for the mouth and eyes!

An easier, and perhaps less intimidating preparation, is Laurent’s exquisite Moules Mariniere. This mussel recipe is so simple yet deceptively delicious. You can hunt for your own mussels, as Laurent did this month, or head to your favorite seafood market. Just choose mussels that are tightly closed with undamaged shells. And whatever you do, don’t waste any of the liquid gold that is the leek broth in the pot.  

Moules Mariniere
Serves 6-8

8-10 quart kettle or Dutch oven with lid
3 cups white wine
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 bunch of fresh tarragon
1/2 half cup shallots – halved and sliced
1 bunch leeks (white parts only) – quartered and sliced thin
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
1/8 tsp pepper
6 TBSP butter
Water as needed
6 quarts scrubbed cleaned mussels
1 bunch chives – minced

In the kettle, on very low heat, add butter, shallots and leeks. Cover. Stir every 10 minutes, adding water as needed to keep the shallots and leeks moist (do not brown). Cook about 30 minutes until the leeks are sweet. Stir in the white wine and boil for 3-4 minutes over high heat. Add mussels and cover tightly. Frequently grasp the tightly covered kettle and toss the mussels. Do not let the heat or steam escape. After approximately 5 minutes the mussels will swing open and be ready to eat. Serve the mussels in large soup bowls with added leek broth and chives. (Just watch for sand that might have escaped from the mussels and settled at the bottom of the pot.)

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