It was a couple of weekends ago now on one of the few lazy Sundays we’ve had in a while and I was completely lacking any inspiration on what to make for dinner that night. I knew we were going to have steak because Michael had been letting one dry out for a day or so in the fridge (not so much dry-aging but just letting some of the moisture of the steak soak into a paper towel–it does make for a really good at-home slab of beef) and so really I needed to think of what could go well with that. Neither pasta nor bread/toast felt right for that night, so I started flipping through A Kitchen in France and immediately landed on Mimi Thorisson’s almond mussels.
Mussels are awesome and sustainable–I’ve certainly written about them here at length before–but I’ve usually stuck to the very basic and very easy method of cooking them with a few aromatics, some wine or beer, and then letting the heat and the pot do most of the work. You also get far more of them per pound than you do of other shellfish, so usually by the time I’ve sorted through and debearded them all the thought of doing much else has zero appeal for me. The use of the almond flour here caught my interest, though, and I figured it was worth giving it a shot even if it meant having to break apart two pounds of rather hot mussels and deposit them on a baking sheet.
Truthfully, that was somewhat of a pain to do, and only because of the sheer quantity of mussels that you’re dealing with here. (No wonder it’s more common to see baked clams or oysters rather than mussels.) But the topping mixture was very simple to bring together, and even topping each one wasn’t much of an ordeal because the sheet pan was so crowded with them that a little overlap of filling was more than OK–everything looked great on the platter afterward anyway.
Most importantly, though, these mussels were incredible thanks to the crust of almond flour and breadcrumbs and the finely minced garlic that perfumed every bite. We destroyed the entire pan with gusto, only pausing to work on the rest of dinner and maybe take a sip or two of wine here and there. Mimi writes that she likes to have these out for dinner guests as an appetizer so they can munch on them while she’s getting the rest of dinner together, and as such her recipe is double what I’m going to share here. Trust me when I say that if you’re going to have more than a couple of people over and they like mussels, you’re going to have to double this to make sure everyone can eat their fill.
slightly adapted from A Kitchen in France
serves 2 to 3
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, fresh if possible
3.5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
Half a bunch of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup almond flour
Make the topping: in a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, almond flour, garlic, parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. The result should be a paste-like consistency.
Preheat the oven to 425. Place all of your mussels into a large pot that can hold all of them and place over high heat, covered. (I find that adding a little water in the bottom helps with the opening process.) Cook until they just begin to open, and then take them off the heat, uncover them, and let them cool a little bit.
Break off one side of each shell and place the mussels in a half-sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. (Two pounds of mussels will take up most of the pan.) Cover each with the topping–about a half teaspoon, but adjust accordingly depending on your mussels. Bake for about 6 minutes in the oven until the crust is crisp and serve immediately with a dry white or rosé.