This is the second time I have read Kitchen Confidential - the first time I was completely swept along by the anarchy. This time my favourite parts of the book are the tiny details of the restaurant world eg who would have imagined that reach-ins have no light so chefs need to find everything by touch. Or that the lousy pieces of meat are saved for people who ask for it well-done (glad I don't). Or that patissiers are the obsessive compulsives of the kitchen world (well maybe we all could have guessed that one..) I was also amused by Bourdain's tips on what to avoid in restaurants. Among them:
- bargain sushi
- fish on a monday
- and of course mussels.
Bourdain opines that "I don't eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. I love mussels. But, in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. It takes only a single bad mussel, one treacherous little guy hidden among an otherwise impeccable group... If I'm hungry for mussels, I'll pick the good-looking ones out of your order."
So in honour of Anthony Bourdain, I have made mussels. Mussels are now being lauded as an environmentally friendly choice, they are cheap and they are about the fastest thing you will ever cook. The liquid at the bottom of the pot is also delicious - make sure you have some good bread on hand to sop it all up.
(my version adapted from Stephanie Alexander in "The Cook's Companion")
1 onion or 2 shallots, chopped finely
1 hot chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 large tomato chopped finely
1 bay leaf
500ml dry white wine
2 kg mussels, cleaned and debearded
Tip mussles into a large wok with onion, peppercorns and herbs. Pour in wine, cover tightly and turn the heat up to high. In 4-5 minutes, open the lid, remove all mussels that have sprung open. Allow unopened mussels to cook for a minute longer, then remove those that have opened. Any that are still unopened should be thrown away. Strain pot juices over mussels and serve.