When I entertain I often try to strike a balance between easy to bring to the table and spectacular enough to elicit a few oohs and maybe even some awes. If I can squeeze healthful onto the menu too– all the better. Poorly planned dinner parties can be stressful. So I like to choose recipes I can pull off with simplicity but still have an element of tantalizing showmanship. This recipe for oven steamed Mussels, Bacon, and Apples hits all three marks perfectly.
It’s all in the packaging– the parchment packaging.
Mussels, Bacon and Apples Baked in Parchment is just one example of what French chef’s call en papillote, or wrapped in parchment paper. When it comes to dramatic presentations, en papillotte is one of the best. The packets come to the table looking pretty, so the guests are already impressed and very likely intrigued by the secret wrapped inside. Once the package arrives at the table it can be dramatically opened– releasing aromatic steam. When the steam clears guests get a tantalizing first peek at the perfectly seasoned surprise inside.
Sure this is a showy technique that’s great for dinner parties, but the best part is how easily recipes cooked en papillotte are to prepare for any occasion. There are no special tools. Parchment paper is available at the grocery store. While you’re there pick up simple flavorful foods, like poultry, fish, or shellfish, as well as fresh veggies or even certain fruits. En papillotte lends itself well to low-fat foods, which is why this method also means that my guests are enjoying something healthful.
The secret to cooking food this way is the steam. The parchment traps moisture, then melds the flavors in a magical way. Making these Mussels, Bacon and Apples Baked in Parchment’s sum greater than its parts.
Domaine de Ménard Côtes de Gascogne Cuvée Marine 2013
Pairs well with seafood, shellfish and an aperitif
Which brings me to the wine. Mussels, Bacon, and Apples are all very adaptive to quite a few wine choices. However, we decided to look past the expected California varietals. Simply prepared shellfish also pairs well with some of our favorite French appellations like Chablis, Sancerre, or even Champagne.
Instead, Ken went further afield for this pairing. He chose Côtes de Gascogne.
Gascogne (or Gascony) is a region of southwest France famed for its douceur de vivre (the sweetness of life) which includes a love of food. It’s home to foie gras and Armagnac, as well as a flaky apple tart known as Pastis Gascon. Côtes de Gascogne specializes in regional French varietals such as: Colombard, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, and Ugni Blanc. These white wines offer aromatic notes of citrus, with hints of exotic fruits. They’re typically dry, crisp, and refreshing. Making them very food-friendly.
Mussels, Bacon and Apples en Papillotte
Ken chose to begin our introduction to Gascogne with Domaine de Ménard Côtes de Gascogne Cuvée Marine 2013. It was a spectacular choice with the mussels. It’s an easily approachable wine, making it a terrific dinner party choice too. I love its cool minerality and its hint of citrus. Still, it has a fuller mouthfeel than many of the wines we tasted from this region. To match that slight fattiness I added a couple of tablespoons of butter to the mussels. I also chose to honor the apples in the famed Pastis Gascon by adding them to the papillote as well. The subtle apple-sweetness is beautiful against the wine. GREG