My hand plunges into the frigid ice water causing goosebumps to erupt over my arm; I grasp a handful of the precious mollusks and place them into the large bowl next to me. The glistening shells are deceptively heavy with the promise of the delectable treat inside, dark blue some almost black, smooth and uniform like basalt river stones that have been massaged into shape over millennia. I can smell the ocean, the salty cold Atlantic, I’m picturing the rugged Canadian east coast and I’m hearing the cries of gulls as they compete in their flocks.
I remove the baguettes from the oven, golden brown; fumes of fresh yeast permeate into the air. The excitement in me is beginning to rise, my mind entering a mantra as the pace towards the meal accelerates. The foreplay begins…
I pick up the large French knife, my fingers naturally fit around the rosewood handle, the decades old callous at the base of my forefinger rests on the top of the blade, it is the pivot point as I begin cutting the shallots on the heavy maple cutting board in front of me. My arm and wrist instinctively rock the sharp blade across the shallot, my left hand holding it and guiding the blade; all functions working in unison as my mind wanders, contemplating the next few steps, anticipation building as my senses take in the stimuli, the feel and look of the fine brunoise of shallot, like minute perfect diamonds, the aroma adding a depth to the already present air of yeast and fresh baked bread. Garlic is sliced next, then julienned, then minced fine. A drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil helps lubricate the process, the knife easily sliding quickly across the reducing garlic pieces, the light pungent oil holding the garlic together in a homogeneous wad. Again the emitting aromas adding to the already present smells in the kitchen, like a symphony slowly starting and building with new instruments joining in; like a lover’s gentle caresses increasing tempo…
Fresh Thyme and Tarragon splash bright green on the cutting board, the soft and supple leaves easily stripped from their stems in my fingers, the characteristic lemon/licorice of the Tarragon and sharp woodiness of the Thyme are now joining the orchestra adding new dimensions, my senses heightening in awareness with every input, my ever increasing arousal spurning me on for more…
“Pop!” The cork is good, hints of oak and tannin mixed with the berry of the California Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2014 “Vampire”, breathing will allow the flavors to mature and the finer nuances of this aphrodisiac to surface. With a micro-plane I zest 2 lemons, and then squeeze the juice out.<><><><><><><><><><><>
Butter is cut into cubes, heavy cream is out and the gelatinized fish stock/reduction, “Fumet de Poisson” I lovingly produced yesterday are standing by, the momentum of my mise en place is carrying me now with a life of its own, I’m drawn to the next stage, almost involuntarily as the tempo increases, the adrenaline is flowing, the symphony entering a full swing now as we enter into the crescendo that will culminate at the threshold. The seduction intensifies…
The heavy 14” stainless steel sauté pan rests on the stove, turning the knob ignites a bright blue tongue of flame that licks up the sides and around the edge of the pan; igniting the passion in me.
Fire and sharp knives turn me on!
I’m ready, I take a deep breath, I can hear and feel Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” beginning in my mind, we’re way past “heavy petting” now, the consummation begins…
A little oil is drizzled into the hot pan, followed by mussels, shallots and garlic. Loud sizzling as the magic begins; the percussion section of the orchestra has just kicked in, now I’m cooking! My hand and arm easily tossing the mussels rapidly while keeping the pan on the flame, the wine goes in and a cloud of steam erupts from the hot pan. Tarragon, Thyme, lemon zest and juice and fish stock, I cover the pan with another to seal it and allow it to steam, gently rocking the pan, coaxing, inducing, enticing, seducing those beautiful mussels to open up. The liquid simmering, the pan oscillating in a rhythm with my body, and I can feel the mussels surrendering, releasing, and opening themselves up for me. After a minute and a half I remove the cover causing the flame to light and “flambé” the “essence” that has been captured under the cover, the atmosphere of the kitchen charged with the amalgamation of ingredients and process, the magic is wafting through the kitchen, and through me; I’m panting with anticipation.
With a “spider” I quickly remove the cooked mussels, shells spread wide open revealing the sensuous, plump morsels inside, my excitement rises again, my pulse quickens, I place them into a large bowl. The sauce/liqueur/essence is reducing rapidly while I constantly toss the pan, I add the cream while rhythmically swirling the juices around the pan as they reduce. I taste the sauce, ready for the butter so I start the “Monter au beurre” process,literal translation "I'm mounting the sauce" quickly adding the whole butter and whipping it in just until it is incorporated then adding more, I taste again; needing more lemon juice I cut one in half and squeeze it in, squeeze it again, and squeeze it again coaxing every drop of precious juice out. it is now velvet, I turn the heat off and add the last bit of butter. A deep burgundy creamy velvet is in front of me, the smell so sublime it transcends my intellect to go straight to my ethereal senses.
I reach over to the large pepper-mill standing tall, proud and erect, the only phallic symbol in this otherwise yonic scenario, (this observation is probably a manifestation of my “Harem Fantasy” surfacing); I grab it firmly and twist the head a few times adding a piquant dash for an added dimension, I resist the urge to continue and reluctantly set it back down; control, control, control. My intellect and senses dancing together, give and take in their mutual contribution towards this lovemaking.
While I’ve produced this dish literally thousands of times it is still “fresh”, brand new, an adventure of discovery; like the excitement of being with a new lover for the first time. My body, senses and instincts know what to do and my intellect is still on a discovery quest, enjoying the ride. It is a celebration, an expression, a gesture and while our time here is so short lived we must appreciate the beauty that is in front of us, right at this moment.
I remove the large bowl of covered mussels from the oven and sauce them with the red velvet nectar sprinkling some of the fresh herb on top that I had reserved for this. I’m panting inside, wanting, desiring, I cannot wait anymore; we move to the dining room.
We’re seated, my mind retracts as we give thanks and raise our glasses in a toast. I’m removed as my senses are heightened, the long anticipation has been building to this point, this is the culmination, and I’m at the threshold, my intellect ready to let go, to leap off of the precipice as my senses prepare to fly, but I linger holding onto the “journey”, holding off from the “destination”. What is a journey without a destination? What is a destination without a journey? I’m at the point of no return, the remnant of wine in my mouth has pushed me over the edge, and I surrender allowing my senses to fly free. I look into my full bowl and choose a plump, juicy mussel, shell overflowing with sauce, literally gushing; my eyes close involuntarily as my mouth opens to accept what my hand is bringing to it…
I’ve had a “Love Affair” with food my whole life, even after all of these years cooking still excites and arouses me to no end.
“Mussels Beurre Rouge”
A re-think of the classic “Beurre Blanc”
Fresh, “Live”, P.E.I. Mussels – 48 Large
Garlic cloves 5
Fresh Thyme stems 5
Fresh tarragon stems 6
Lemon zest and juice 2
Heavy Cream 35% 150 ml
Reduced fish stock, (50%) 150 ml
“Vampire” Cabernet Sauvignon- at least 2 bottles, probably about 200 - 300 ml of that for cooking
(Note, this recipe is for 2, but if you’re cooking for 3 adjust the recipe accordingly and I would suggest The “Ménage a Trois”, another California Red, (either the Cabernet or the blend), which is an excellent wine as well and suited for this dish)
Whole butter, (unsalted) 120 gms
Extra Virgin Olive Oil As needed, (you can never have too much Extra Virgin)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Fresh Baguette 2 loaves, for dipping
This can be served with, or without, pasta or rice, or as an appetizer before another course.
Note; In case you didn’t notice there is no salt in this recipe, there is no need for it, (and it’s not good for the libido)
Happy Cooking Everyone!