French Friday’s with Dorie
Moules Mariniere is one of those dishes I only eat when I am far from home. I have fond memories of eating them as a late afternoon lunch at a French bistro when the steaming, wine flavored broth was just the right tonic for restoring my faith after a long day of touring the city. I also have fond recollections of huge bowls of moules mariniere brought to me at small wooden tables in Italian Mediterranean or Greek Island towns. Multiple glasses of local white wines would wash them down nicely and ensure a memorable lunch.
I never even think to make them at home. Ever.
The earlier French Friday with Dorie mussels recipe assigned two years ago (made with chorizo) had me pondering on how my earliest association with mussels (the squishy raw meat we used as fishing bait) probably had a lot to do with my need for geographical distance from home before I could enjoy them properly as cuisine. This, combined with the simple fact that my Dear One isn’t much of a a shellfish lover would ensure that mussels stayed off the home menu. They are quite easy to make and bringing a bowl to the table has always had a certain panache that elevated my culinary self-esteem a notch or two, but I wouldn’t make them.
All my mussel consumption during the intervening two years was done while I was on vacations or away on business travel. Each time it was always this classic preparation known as Moules mariniere and each time it was appreciated as the simple, classic, and always tasty dish it is.
With this week’s French Friday with Dorie assignment (from her book “Around My French Table”) I was asked to leave my associations (as bait and otherwise) behind and once again prepare mussels for home consumption. Reluctantly, I took the bait and made mussels at home once again. Only this time the chorizo was to be left behind so the preparation could proceed according to the more classic moules marinier: mussels steamed open in a simple wine, onion, and herb broth and sopped up with grilled bread.
And they were quite good. All the usual ingredients are included in Dorie’s version. She does suggest augmenting the wine-onion-herb broth with half a bullion cube (regular readers will understand why I happened to have a few on hand) which I complied with. The resulting flavor was still very similar to the moules mariniere I dined on so many places elsewhere.
But something was missing.
What was missing was the change of scenery. Moules mariniere just isn’t the same when it is not consumed it in a busy Paris bistro with friends or while watching the sunset from a hillside in Santorini. If “location is everything” with moules mariniere it is certainly more true.
But I did like it. Actually, loved it. And more surprisingly, so did my Dear One. He is always a good sport when French Fridays assignments ask him to travel outside his comfort zone so it could be said that he was traveling while eating these. But even still, I won’t be making them at home again. I am much more likely to revisit the satisfying Mussels with Chorizo or wait to make the Curried Mussels we will be making before this project closes up shop. Maybe I’ll make them with beer or with some Pernod and cream in the mix.
Anything but the classic moules mariniere that I only enjoy fully when I eat them anywhere else but here.