Saturday, 29 March 2014

Gratin of mussels

My body's clock seems to be quite well tuned and getting used to waking up at 6 am, as I was fast asleep a bit past ten pm last night. I'm such a party animal! And although I did sleep in a bit this morning, I was still up at quarter to seven. But I don't want to sleep in too late on the weekends, as that will only make it harder to get up during the week. So instead, I have a few hours of crafting and blogging time on Saturday and Sunday morning while the Culinary Consultant sleeps. That lucky bastard gets to sleep until eight in the morning even on working days, and he tends to stay up rather late, so he does take the opportunity to sleep in a bit over the weekend. I used to be able to easily sleep past midday on weekends. I guess I'm officially old now, no longer able to sleep in the mornings. During my holiday, I established a nice sleeping pattern of going to sleep around 11.30 and waking up around 8 am. I think that would be ideal for me, being able to sleep until 8 am. But I guess the next time in my life when I'm able to sleep as I wish is when I get retired. And I'm sure by then I am one of those people who wake up at 4 am, complain that the day feels so long and then I fall asleep on the sofa at 8 pm. Hopefully shifting the clocks tonight won't upset my internal clock too much...

I am also slowly getting used to my commute, I spend some mornings dozing off a bit in the bus, other mornings I plan next week's menu, or just read a book. On the way back home, I try to get some work related reading done, and sometimes I just stare out the window with a completely blank mind. There is no point in thinking about all the time that is wasted sitting in the bus (or as was the case yesterday - waiting for a bus for over 45 minutes). This is the choice I made, and the price I pay for a nicer job is the longer commute. It won't get any better by complaining about it, so I might as well make the best of it. I have now used the car+bus combo for three weeks, and kept a diary of the expense as well as the time it has taken me every day. Next, I will drive in for the next three weeks and compare time and cost, and then decide on what is the best option in the long run. I'm so annoyed we get charged for parking at work. I'm sure that should be illegal...

After all those pointless ramblings, on to today's recipe. You know all that food your Mum used to make when you were a child? And then trying to re-create it years later, and it just doesn't look the same. This is something I remember my Mum making quite often for her and Dad. I don't think I ever tasted it, not sure if it was because we were never served this dish, or because we simply refused to eat it (I would assume the latter is the more accurate). 

Gratin of mussels (serves 4 as a starter):
1 dl (approx 1/3 of a cup) chopped parsley
1 dl (approx 1/3 of a cup) chopped leek
1 dl (approx 1/3 of a cup) chopped chives
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2.5 dl (1 cup) dry white wine
2.5 dl (1 cup) fish stock
2 dl (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp) single cream
2 tbsp flour in 2 tbsp water
black pepper (you can add salt, but the smoked salmon which is added later is salty enough for my taste)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of dill
about 400 g mussels (thawed if frozen, smoked mussels will give nice added flavour)
100 g smoked salmon
150 g grated cheese (or more/less to taste)
chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Add the chopped parsley, leek, chives, garlic, wine and fish stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil until the volume is reduced to half. Add the cream and bring to a low boil. While stirring, add the water and flour mixture in a thin stream and let bubble for a few minutes. Season with finely chopped garlic, black pepper and finely chopped dill (fresh is better, but dried will do).

In an oven proof dish, or individual ramekins, spread the mussels and salmon. Cover with the sauce. Top with grated cheese and chopped parsley. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with fresh bread or baguette.

The verdict:
In my memories, when my mum made this, it looked very different. But then again, she used to make it in individual servings, whereas I didn't have any ramekins which were the right size, my soufflé ramekins were too small. It was very tasty though. I can't remember whether I ever tasted my mum's version of it so I can't compare taste. One warning I have is to be very careful with the salt. I don't think this dish needs any added salt, especially if you use smoked mussels or smoked salmon. This makes a really great starter, and I took the leftovers with me to work for lunch the next day. It felt rather decadent to eat such amazingly good food for lunch at work, but it certainly made my day. To be honest, the dish is definitely best if served right out of the oven, re-heating does make the mussels a bit tough.

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