M akes 8 crisps
1 cup finely shredded or grated
Parmigiano-Reggiano (you can
also try Asiago, aged Cheddar,
aged Gouda, Manchego, or
another hard cheese)
1/2 tsp. lightly toasted crushed
cumin seeds or fennel seeds
(or another spice if you like)
These cheese crisps can be
made in a nonstick sauté pan
one by one, but it’s more efficient
to make them in batches on baking sheets in the oven. The goal
is to let the cheese melt to create
a texture that’s lacy but that
still holds together, so be sure to
sprinkle the cheese lightly.
- Heat the oven to 375°F. Cover
2 large baking sheets with parchment. Combine the cheese and
spice. Sprinkle 2 Tbs. of the mixture on the parchment to form a 4- to 41/2-inch
round. Spread the cheese evenly with a fork. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, leaving 2 inches between each round.
- Bake each sheet (one at a time) until the crisps just begin to color, 6 to
8 minutes. Don’t let them fully brown or the cheese will be bitter. Use a spatula
to lift the edges of the crisps and loosen them from the pan. Remove the
crisps and immediately lay them over a rolling pin or the side of a bottle to give
them a curved shape. Or for a flat frico, just transfer to paper towels. When
cooled, store the crisps in an airtight container for up to 2 days. —John Ash
mussels stuffed with spinach and parmesan
S e r v es 4
1 cup dry white wine
4 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
(omit if fresh isn’t available)
28 medium mussels (about 2 lb.),
sorted and cleaned
For the stuffing
2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
2 cups lightly packed, washed,
stemmed, and chopped fresh
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf
Salt and freshly ground
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
This savory appetizer will convert
anyone still timid about mussels.
Serve with small forks and bread
to soak up the rich juices.
Combine the wine, 2 Tbs. of the
shallots, the pepper, parsley
sprigs, bay leaf, and thyme in a
pot (with a lid) large enough to
accommodate the mussels when
their shells have opened. Bring to
a boil, add the mussels, cover, and steam until just opened, 2 to 3 minutes.
Try not to steam the mussels longer than necessary, because they’ll be
cooked again later. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Strain the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with several layers of
cheesecloth and reserve.
For the stuffing
- Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan. Add the remaining shallots and cook
until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach, cover, and cook briefly until the
spinach wilts. Uncover and cook until the liquid from the spinach evaporates,
another 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the strained mussel liquid and cook until
the mixture is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook until the
mixture is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and season
to taste with salt and pepper; the mixture should be quite peppery.
- Heat the broiler. Remove the mussels from their shells. Make a bed of rock
salt or crumpled foil on a baking sheet (to steady the shells) and arrange as
many half shells as you have mussel meats. Put a mussel meat on each half
shell and spoon a teaspoonful of the spinach mixture over each. Top with the
grated cheese and broil until golden and bubbly, 4 to 6 minutes.
At the fish counter, look for mussels that are tightly
closed or slightly open (and close immediately with
a tap), an indication they’re alive. If they’re wide
open, they’re dead or close to it. Once you have
them in hand, take a sniff. They should smell like the
sea. Buy more than you’ll need, since you’ll have to
discard any that don’t open during cooking.
Just before cooking, look for any mussels that
have opened and tap them on the counter. If
they don’t close, discard them. Check closed
mussels by pressing on the two shells in opposing
directions. Dead ones will fall apart. Scrub the
remaining mussels under cold running water with a
stiff brush to get rid of any grit. If the mussels have
“beards”—black hairy fibers sticking out of their
shells—pinch them and yank them off.
To keep mussels fresh, store in an open plastic
bag (shellfish will suffocate in a sealed bag) in the
fridge on a bed of ice in a large bowl. Refresh ice as
it melts, and use within a day.