Ah, Mussels. I love 'em. Cindi won't eat them, having survived (barely) a bad mussel in Italy in the fog of the early 90s, Vince won't eat them either since they're shellfish, but I sure as hell will. You should too. Mussels are quick, cheap, delicious and sensual: a dig-in-and-eat-with-your-hands sort of meal.

Now, I'm a self-confessed Heretic and drink red wine with this dish. I figure if I'm eating with my hands and Riding Dirty, I can drink what I like. Champagne works too, but that's Brunch, right?

Feeds a four hungry people as a first course, or maybe just me and Dave.

Material:

Two baguettes
One stick butter, 4 oz.
Warm, softened butter, 1 tsp.
A little olive oil for saute
Dry white wine, 3 cups
Juice of one lemon (not the bottled stuff, that's for cleaning windows)
Two medium shallots, sliced thin
Pinch (1/4 tsp) of Sea salt, the good grey stuff
Black pepper, grind four twists
Mussels, six pounds, rinsed scrubbed and debearded
Handful of flat Italian parsley, chiffonaded

Procedure:

Use your Dutch Oven (food snob-speak for Big Pot With A Lid) and melt the stick of butter and add a shot of olive oil, just a touch. Saute the shallots until they soften and just start to color. You don't want brown here. Dump in the wine, lemon, salt and pepper and bring the pot to a boil. Crank up the heat to Full Metal Jacket.

When the wine is boiling, dump in the mussels and slam on the lid. Keep the lid down tight and let the mussels steam and the wine reduce for about ten minutes. When the mussels are all open, uncover, toss in the parsley and swirl in the softened butter. Take off the heat and serve in a BIG warmed bowl with hunks of baguette to soak up the sauce.

Variations:

Add a clove of slivered garlic or 1 tsp of whole coriander seeds along with the wine. If you do the coriander, consider substituting cilantro for the parsley above. It's a different dish entirely and very, very good.

Notes:

Mussels should be FRESH and smell of deep ocean water, not low tide at Jones Beach. They should be heavy and closed tight. Hollow-sounding, open or stinky mussels will get you a miserable day off work and piss off your friends who thought you were _finally_ learning to cook.