From Autumn Into Winter 

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Gary Rhodes Cookery Year- Autumn into Winter is a celebration of the fact that food always tastes better when it’s in season.

"One of the delights of being in tune with the seasons is discovering how effortlessly we stumble upon delicious things to eat, turning the daily job of cooking into pure pleasure." - Gary Rhodes.

There is nothing better than to cook food using ingredients that burst with flavour. After introducing us to the delights of cooking with fresh spring and summer ingredients in the first volume of his Cookery Year, Gary Rhodes returns to show us the wonderful range of vegetables, fruits, meat and fish that are available to brighten up the darker months of the year in Autumn into Winter.

Autumn into Winter contains over 120 mouth-watering recipes divided into each season and in easy-to-use sections such as vegetables, fish, meat and fruit, enabling you to not only find a recipe for every occasion, but also using the finest produce available at the time. And because Gary uses the freshest ingredients, the recipes are simple to prepare, relying on flavour rather than complicated sauces or techniques.

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Mussels Bonne Femme

Mussels are generally 'in season' between the months of September and March, but it is said that the months of October and November offer the best.  Mussels sold are virtually all cultured by a technique founded by the French well over 500 years ago.  It was the Dutch however, who introduced the bags of well scrubbed mussels.  It's still a good idea to wash them in plenty of cold water, scraping away any barnacles and pulling away the beards (byssus).  It's with these beards that the mussels attach themselves to rocks, poles, ropes and the like.   If any mussels are slightly open, a short sharp tap should make them close.  Any that don't close should be discarded, along with any that are particularly heavy.  Once cleaned they are ready to cook.

The term Bonne Femme is generally used of a fish dish, usually sole, which I was taught during my college years. It basically means a white wine cream sauce flavoured with mushrooms, shallots and parsley. , everything being glazed under the grill.  All of these flavours are to be included here, with the addition of fresh tarragon. 

Wild mushrooms are in season now and can be used in place of button mushrooms.  Any of the varieties will work, so a mixed bag would be fine.  If you're looking tooo feature just one, ceps or chantrelles would be my first choice.  All I tend to eat with a dish like this is lots of crusty bread.

Ingredients

Serves 4 as a very generous starter or as a main course.

50g / 2oz butter, plus an extra knob
1 onion, sliced
2kg / 4.5 lbs of fresh mussels, cleaned
150ml / 1/4 pint of white wine
1 level tsp plain flour
2 tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
225g / 8oz button mushrooms sliced
2 egg yolks
100mls / 3.5 fl oz double cream
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
1 heaped tsp of torn tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method

1) Melt a third of the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the sliced onion and cook for a minute or two, then add the mussels and white wine.  Place a lid on top and cook over a fierce heat, turning the mussels from time to time, until they have all opened.  This will literally take just a few minutes once the liquor is boiling.  Any mussels that refuse to open should be discarded.  Drain the mussels into a colander, saving all the juices.

2) Strain the saved liquor through a fine sieve into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Mix another third of butter with the flour to make a buerre-manie, before whiskinnng it into the liquor.  This will thicken the sauce to a coating consistency.  If still too thin, mix the remaining third of butter with a little more flour and add to the liquor.  Cook the sauce on a very low heat for 3-4 minutes to cook out the flour flavour.

3) The mussels can now be removed from their shells, and any remaining beards can be pulled away.  Preheat the grill to hot.

4) Melt the knob of butter in a large frying pan and add the chopped shallot or onion.  Cook on a fairly high heat for 2-3 minutes, then add the mushrooms, frying for a further few minutes.

5) Mix the mushrooms with the mussels and spoon them into a large ceramic flan dish or oven proof bowl.  Add the egg yolks to the double cream and lightly whip to soft peaks.  Stir in the parsley and tarragon into the mussel sauce, seasoning with salt, pepper and the lemon juice. Fold in the whipped egg cream.

6) Spoon the sauce over the mussels, and finish under a pre-heated grill until light golden brown.  The dish is now ready to serve, with lots of bread and a glass of chilled crisp white wine. 

Gary Rhodes - Autumn into Winter This recipe was taken from Gary Rhodes Cookery Year: Autumn Into Winter available from Amazon priced £11.69.

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