Steamed Mussels in Butter from Outlander book Dragonfly in Amber

Steamed Mussels with Butter - Recipe Redux

I sat on a chest against the taffrail, enjoying the salty breeze and the tarry, fishy smells of ships and harbor.  It was still cold, but with my cloak pulled tight around me, I was warm enough.  The ship rocked slowly, rising on the incoming tide; I could see the beards of algae on nearby dock pilings lifting and swirling, obscuring the shiny black patches of mussels between them.

The thought of mussels reminded me of the steamed mussels with butter I had had for dinner the night before, and I was suddenly starving.  The absurd contrasts of pregnancy seemed to keep me always conscious of my digestion; if I wasn't vomiting, I was ravenously hungry.  The thought of food led me to the thought of menus, which led back to a contemplation of the entertaining Jared had mentioned.  Dinner parties, hm?  It seemed as odd way to begin the job of saving Scotland, but then I couldn't really think of anything better.

Dragonfly in Amber, chapter 6, "Making Waves"

steamed mussels with butter Valentine's Day Round Up

I worked under 3 French chefs during my time in professional kitchens.  This recipe belongs to the first.

Chef P. was my culinary skills instructor. The crusty son of a Parisian bakery owner who went on to cook in some of Europe's greatest restaurants, he was never short of a story -- once the work was done and every last pot lid was put away -- he would often regale us with a tale from the kitchens of old.  My favourites were from his childhood, in his father's bakeries, where he learned from master bakers who started everyday outside the back door, cigarettes in hand, feeling the early morning air before returning inside to mix the day’s doughs according to their temperature and humidity readings.

Those early lessons influenced Chef P. -- he was all about using your instincts in the kitchen.  Ask him how long to cook something, and he would invariably shake his head in exasperation, growl "Until it's done!" then peer quizzically at you, as though the knives in your proverbial drawer were a little dull, before turning to answer the next "silly" question.

(I did say he was crusty.)

steamed mussels with butter

The secret to Chef P's mussels with butter is what he put in his butter.

Compound butter, or beurre composé, is a mixture of softened butter and flavourings used in sauces, or atop vegetables, meats and seafood.

This is a slightly simplified version of Chef P's original mussel butter, which we made in 10lb batches with a few extra ingredients that aren't common in the average home-kitchen pantry.  My version is a little easier to put together and still packed with flavour.

Besides, I couldn't, in good conscience, give away another chef's secrets.  At least not all of them.

steamed mussels with butter

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