i ate my first mussels in my early forties. i have made up for it since of course, but as so often, my first was really a big deal. i had been lucky as a photographer in those days to freelance for craig claiborne. he would explore ideas and write of ingredients and methods at his kitchen in east hampton opposite pierre franey. pierre at the stove and craig at his red ibm selectric bantered over qualities, quantities and every nuance of the food in question. and i got to photograph eventually what the two had concocted. my picture appeared next to their work in the sunday times magazine a week or so later. after many such sessions craig had begun to trust my eye. he simply faxed recipes to my studio. i then went to the market, cooked and styled the food by myself and finally rendered my image of their creations. i learned how to cook from these recipes. my photographs were straight interpretations, no faux food and i had many a glorious dinner eating “the picture” afterwards. one of an early faxed notion was their riff on a famous mussel dish, moules à la marinière. here is my version from portland:
1/2 cup minced shallots
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds of mussels, preferably mediterranean mussels, cleaned
1 cup white wine
1 head of frisee, washed and stemmed
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp ricard or pernod
combine all ingredients of the vinaigrette to your taste. set aside to cure. cook the shallots and the garlic for a minute, add the wine and the mussels. steam the mussels over high heat. shake the covered mussel pan so that all mussels cook evenly. about 3 minutes.
strain the mussels liquid through cheese cloth into the vinaigrette. combine with the shelled mussels and serve over the frisee.