Moules au Gratin a l'ail

Mussels as they like them in Brittany - cooked like snails, which are in short supply these days since it's become illegal to gather them from the wild for sale. Happily, no such limitations apply to the ocean-reared equivalent.

  • Preparation time: 25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 35 minutes 35 minutes

Serves: 4 as a starter

Ingredients

  • 500g fresh mussels
  • 150g unsalted French butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
  • A few drops Pernod (optional)
  • Lemon quarters, to serve

Method

  1. Scrub the mussels and remove the black beard that holds the mussel to its anchor (once this is done, the mollusc won't survive for long). Transfer to a roomy pot, add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover tightly with a lid. Set over a medium-high heat, stirring once, until all the shells are open. Discard any that remain shut.
  2. Mash the butter with the garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Preheat the grill to high. Split the mussels, leaving the meat in one of the shells and discarding the other. Stuff a little of the butter inside each shell and arrange neatly on a grill pan. Sprinkle each mussel with a pinch of breadcrumbs (you want a little hat, not a blanket) and finish with a drop of Pernod, if you like.
  3. Grill until brown and bubbling then serve straight away with quartered lemons and hot bread for mopping the garlicky juices.