What exactly is the difference between a bistro, a brasserie, and a wine bar? asked Amy Scattergood in the Los Angeles Times. The ideal way to find the answer is to stroll along the streets of Paris, and do the research yourself. Or you could consult The Bistros, Brasseries, and Wine Bars of Paris (Morrow) by Daniel Young, who notes that there is no definitive answer to the question. All three essentially offer comfort food in a homey setting. One of the staples of this informal dining scene is garlic soup with mussels. Reflecting the small kitchens of such establishments, it is “characteristically simple (according to French standards, that is), in terms of preparation and ingredients.” This recipe comes from Le Bistrot des Capucins near the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and the result is “absolutely delicious.”
Recipe of the week
Garlic Soup With Mussels
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and bearded
1 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 baguette, cut into 12 (half-inch) slices
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup (4 oz) grated Gruyère
1 to 2 tsp piment d’Espelette (you may substitute medium-hot chili powder)
Place the mussels, wine, and 1 cup cold water in a large saucepan over moderately high heat. Cover and cook until the shells open, 4 to 6 minutes. Strain the mussels into a colander, collecting the juices in a bowl placed below. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat, add the garlic, and
cook, stirring constantly, until pale gold, 3 to 4 minutes (do not let brown).
Add the mussel juice to the garlic, raise the heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat to very low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the mussels from the shells. Lightly toast the bread.
Remove the soup from the heat. Combine the egg yolk, vinegar, and a couple of tablespoons of the soup in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a whisk until the mixture gets foamy. Slowly pour the mixture back into the remaining soup, continuing to beat with a whisk.
To serve, place a few baguette slices, 3 to 4 tablespoons of grated cheese, and some mussels on the bottom of four wide soup bowls; cover with soup and dust with piment d’Espelette. Serves 4.