If you haven’t made mussels before, you’ll love how easy they are. Most supermarkets sell them in bags…make sure you get them home and in the fridge pronto. When it’s time to cook, rinse them off and toss out any that are cracked or not tightly shut. If they have little “beards” on them (little tufts of stringy stuff on the end of the mussel), pull them off with a good tug. Now you are all ready to roll!
Mix up your favorite herbs in one bowl. Mix up the creme fraiche and mustard in another bowl. Have your mussels and beer and veggies at the ready! Now melt up a little butter with some garlic and thyme. Toss in some chopped tomatoes and scallions, and then stir in the mustard mixture. Add the mussels, pour the beer over the whole thing, give it all a good stir, and give it a grinding of pepper. Cover it up and wait for about 3 minutes. Now uncover it, toss in about half your fresh herbs, stir it around again, and put the cover back on. Check it again after about 5 minutes – at this point your mussels should be steamed open, and you have a gently creamy, beery, tomato sauce. Toss out any unopened mussels.
Now, you can certainly divide this into individual plates at this point…or you can do like I do. Have someone cover your table with a good layering of newspaper or brown paper grocery bags or anything else that you are okay with throwing out (or recycling!) when you are done. Pour the whole delicious mussel mixture into one big bowl, scatter the croutons on top, and sprinkle the rest of your fresh herbs over the whole thing.
I put the whole bowl in the center of the table along with another bowl of damp washclothes (you’ll be happy you have them later), and a basket of torn up country bread to sop up the juices. I hand everyone a fork, light the citronella candles, put on some dinner music and tell folks to dig in. The shells get tossed on the newspaper, and when all the mussels are gone and the sauce is sopped up and the candles are burning low and everyone has wiped their sticky hands clean with the damp washclothes, all you need to do is scoop up the newspapers, shells and all, and wash out the one big bowl and the forks.
Personally, I think summertime doesn’t get much better than this. Bring those mussels on!