Steve and Jen bring you this daily review of the news
Premium Advertiser

News Blog Sponsors

News Links

BBC World Service
The Guardian
Washington Post
Iraq Order of Battle
NY Times
LA Times
ABC News

Blogs We Like

Daily Kos
Digby's Blog
Operation Yellow Elephant
Iraq Casualty Count
Media Matters
Talking Points
Defense Tech
Intel Dump
Soldiers for the Truth
Margaret Cho
Juan Cole
Just a Bump in the Beltway
Baghdad Burning
Howard Stern
Michael Moore
James Wolcott
Cooking for Engineers
There is No Crisis
Whiskey Bar
Rude Pundit
Crooks and Liars
Amazin' Avenue
DC Media Girl
The Server Logs

Blogger Credits

Powered by Blogger

Archives by
Publication Date
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Saturday, August 26, 2006

The backup seafood

Ed Alcock for The New York Times
On a beach in western France, fresh mussels finish
roasting on a bed of pine branches. They are eaten
with just bread and butter.

A Passion for Mussels

Published: August 23, 2006

ÎLE DE RÉ, France

THE few Americans who come to this scrubby Atlantic island all seem to describe it the same way. It’s “the French Nantucket,” according to New Englanders, or “Francehampton” to New Yorkers, who feel at home with its combination of lively beach towns, sandy potato fields, washed-blue skies and shellfish shacks.

The Île de Ré is about two miles out from the city of La Rochelle, and about 3,300 miles east of Portland, Me. The terrain may seem familiar, but once you sit down at one of the island’s restaurants, you know you’re not in the United States.

That’s because while clams and oysters are the stars of summer in New England, this region, the Charente-Maritime, is besotted with mussels. Yes, there are oyster bars and clam shacks on the beach that rival Maine’s finest, where the shellfish are cracked open and served raw, so fresh from the water that you can see them recoil from a squeeze of lemon.

But it’s local mussels that show up when villages here host big public dinners — the equivalent of pancake breakfasts — in the town square, like the “Fête Moules Frites” held in La Couarde-sur-Mer during the Bastille Day holiday weekend this year.

And mussels, not clams, are the primary ingredient for the local version of the New England clambake. Éclade de moules is a kind of ritualized mussel-roast, which can be as simple as a family beach picnic or can be expanded to feed hundreds for a wedding. It takes patience and steady hands to arrange the mussels in the traditional pattern of concentric circles. But other than that, it’s the simplest dish imaginable.

“For the real éclade de moules,” said a shellfish dealer at the Thursday market in the island town of Ars-en-Ré, “all you need is mussels, pine needles and bread and butter.”

The mussels are arranged on a plank of pine that has been soaked in seawater, then covered with pine branches or grape vines that are set alight. In about five minutes, the smoldering branches are swept away, leaving behind a bracing aroma and mussels filled with smoky meat.

Beyond éclade, mussels are on every menu, most often steamed open in white wine and seawater and finished with spoonfuls of crème fraîche. On the coast, the favorite dish is mouclade, in which mussels are steamed open and their top shells are removed, and then they are drowned in a succulent, curry-spiked cream sauce.

posted by Steve @ 4:20:00 AM

4:20:00 AM

The News Blog home page


Editorial Staff

Add to My AOL

Support The News Blog

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More
News Blog Food Blog
Visit the News Blog Food Blog
The News Blog Shops
Operation Yellow Elephant
Enlist, Young Republicans