We are huge advocates of eating locally at home and abroad. Since the beginning of our sabbatical, we have munched on mangos while living in Jamaica, eaten flowers off the southern coast of France, and discovered many Corsican delights. Advantageously, the French government requires all foods be posted with their farming origin and the use of genetically-modified foods is outlawed (unless under strict supervision for research purposes only.)
In our villa complex, our family is jokingly known as “the crazy Americans who eat grass.” Our first week here Marcel, our neighbor, approached Rusty and boys while picking greens for Claire’s French fig, sheep cheese and arugula pizza accompanied with lamb’s quarter, fennel and cistus salad. The farm Bordeo where we volunteer also shares their potatoes, zucchini, eggs, and herbs every time we work.
We’ve befriended Alex, the neighborhood butcher, who weekly suggests a local pork sausage called ‘charcuterie’ as well as grass-fed steak. Rabbit is also widely available and the boys love their ‘lapin’ spicy and fried.
Void of much fish in the hills of Pennsylvania, we especially are savoring the Corsican coastal treats. After a bicycling trip to a Sunday market, we relished ‘Fruits de Mer’, a seafood medley of lobster, shrimp, sausage, and mussels over saffron flavored rice. With mussels under their belts, the boys wanted more.
We discovered the Etang of Diane just twenty kilometers south of our villa, a brackish bay where these mollusks are cultivated. Here on long chains suspended into the bay, the mussels attach and grow. The chains are then hoisted out of the water with huge cranes, harvested, sorted by size, and sold to seafood lovers.
We purchased 2 kilograms, steamed them up with local chicken broth, parsley, olive oil, tomatoes, lemon juice and white wine making a specialty called ‘Moulles de Diana’. Along with French bread toasted under rosemary, garlic butter, the fifty mussels and their broth were sopped up completely with not a drop left over.
When steaming, every bivalve should open perfectly to insure its freshness. They are deliciously tasty, not too fishy as some seafood, and reasonably priced when bought directly at the harvest site.
As everyone in France states at mealtime –Bon appetit!
Moulles de Diana
- 4 pounds mussels
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, shaved
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup chicken broth, low-sodium
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 tomato, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Rinse the mussels under cold running water while scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Discard any with broken shells. Heat oil in a 6 to 8-quart stockpot. Sauté the shallot, garlic and thyme to create a base flavor. Add the mussels and give them a good toss. Add wine, lemon juice, chicken broth and red pepper flakes; cover the pot and steam over medium-high for 5 minutes until the mussels open. Toss in the tomato, parsley and butter, recover the pot, and steam for another minute to soften. The tomatoes should keep their shape. Serve with plenty of grilled garlic bread.