Last weekend we left sunny Paris to go visit my sister-in-law in Bretagne. We stayed just outside of Rennes and over the weekend drove around making the most of all things Breton. When it comes to food, Bretagne is famous for its seafood, crêpes , caramel and butter. Located in the northwest of France, there are numerous charming villages to discover and the seafood is as fresh as it comes. Oyster markets can be found all along the coast and I had my sights set on enjoying some beautiful seasonal catch. We also did a little detour to Mont-Saint-Michel, the famous island towering from the sea. Although very touristic, it still has a lot of charm and you can sense why it has been a destination for pilgrimage for centuries. The location is so special with the sea and sky blending into each other for as far as the eye can see. The island and the abbey in the center are twined together like vines. Stairs and passages all leading you to climb higher, closer to that something.
On our way back from Mont-Saint-Michel we stopped in Cancale, a little fishing village that is famous for its oysters. Amongst many restaurants specialized in seafood there is an oyster market set up right by the sea, offering a wide selection. The locals were gathering to get their tray of oysters, sit by the port and enjoy them fresh right at the spot with lemon on the side. We chose ours to take away and left with a bag filled with the indigenous flat oysters.
When I was thinking about writing this post I wanted to share a recipe that would illustrate our stay in Bretagne, the region and the essence of it. So for me it had to be moules-marinières. It´s a true French classic with humble origins and so much character. Moules-frites or mussels with fries are said to be originated in Belgium but are equally common in France. One of those simple dishes that comes from cheap ingredients but over time has gained some prestige and is very much associated with French cuisine. There are different ways to cook mussels and it can vary by region as well. I´m sharing the recipe for one of my favourites, moules marinières - mussels cooked in white wine, with shallots, garlic and parsley. The ingredients are simple and compliment each other perfectly without over powering the mussels. The mussels are ususally served with the stock they were cooked in, so it´s good to have some baguette to soak up all the beautiful flavours.
Moules marinières - mussels with white wine:
2 kg mussels
2 tbs. unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 shallots (thinly sliced)
1-2 garlic cloves
200 ml white wine
A bunch of chopped fresh parsley
Bread for serving
Rinse the mussels well under cold water. Pick them over, pulling off any beards and discarding any with a lid. Over a medium heat in a big pot mix the butter, onion, shallot and garlic with parsley, pepper and white wine. Cook until the onions and garlic are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, increase the heat and cover the pot. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and toss the mussels well with a large spoon. Cover the pot again and cook until the mussels are open, 5-10minutes longer. Toss the mussels one last time and serve with bread to soak up all the broth.