2 kilograms black or Eden MusselsNot New Zealand as they are usually only available frozen or already cooked, unless of course you happen to live in New Zealand
4 cloves garlicchopped
2-3 small bird’s eye chillies (chili peppers) (chopped)I forgot them that day
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley leavesleaves chopped
1 bottle white winepour yourself a glass
extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper corn mill
This dish for me always conjures up memories of long summer nights, nights spent amongst a forest of sailboat masts, glowing orange as they reflected the deep northern sunset.
Every Friday for a whole summer myself and my two best mates since high school, John and Trevor would take John’s dad’s sailboat out onto the Georgia Strait, sailing around just off Vancouver. I remember one Friday in particular we were sailing back from the Gulf Islands, the diminishing light from the never setting sun painting the water a profound blue and the mighty fir trees appearing as mere peach fuzz on the coastal mountains, it had been an amazing day on the water. We were bringing the boat into the harbour and were stowing the last of the gear when we heard Carolee, John’s fianc»e, arriving. She walked down the old pier struggling to carry the cooler full of beer and food, tailing Carolee was her sister and a friend from work.
On the back of John’s dad’s boat attached to the railing sat a small barbecue. John and Trevor helped the girls aboard as I prepared the barbecue. I pulled the cooking grate off and lit the flames; I didn’t replace the grate as we weren’t really going to be barbecuing but rather steaming.
I had asked Carolee to pick up a couple kilos of black mussels from the fish market. That’s right I’m not going to romanticise this tale and tell you that we caught the mussels ourselves, although it would’ve sounded nice. Truth is we were barely competent sailors let alone fisherman. Nonetheless the boys de-bearded the mussels like a couple of pros. I placed the large deep baking tray directly on the faux charcoal bits and let it get nice and hot while I cut some fresh garlic and parsley on the cooler lid. By now the mussels were clean and the tray hot, I splashed the tray with a nice olive oil, tossed the mussels in and watched as the whole pan started to rattle from the little pressure cookers. After they danced around a little and looked as though they would open soon, I added the garlic. I grabbed the very hot tray with a couple of towels and tossed the few kilos of shellfish around vigorously. As I replaced the tray to the heat the mussels were just starting to open. The garlic was starting to brown nicely and smelling slightly nutty. I waited a few more seconds and tossed in the parsley, added a liberal splash of white wine, a few rounds with the peppermill then a squeeze from about 3 Lemons. The others pulled out enough beer and wine to go around and then I set the still hot tray on a towel on the cooler in the middle of the floor. We ate the lovely mussels with fresh baguettes in complete contentment and told the girls of our amazing day on the water. As we soaked up the last of the juices in the baking tray with our bread the sun finally dropped below the horizon, it was almost 10 pm!
I hope you enjoy this simple dish and that it eventually stirs the memory pot for you as much as it does for me.
- For tips on cleaning mussels see Cleaning Mussels in Techniques.
- Pour a liberal splash of oil into a hot pot or wok.
- Add the mussels and toss around.
- When the first one starts to open add the garlic & chilli.
- Continue moving so the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Once all but a few are open, a lap around the pan with the wine & pepper mill (leaving heat on high to evaporate alcohol).
- Squeeze lemons in and toss parsley through.
- Remove any unopened mussels, drop anchor and serve immediately.