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Gruyere in the Kitchen: Penn Cove Mussels Gratin

Switzerland has over 170 producers of Gruyere, with the United States as its most important export market. Le Gruyere, including the Emmi Kaltbach label, can be found all over the country, in stores such as Whole Foods, or ordered in larger quantities online. American chefs, like Paul Stearman of Marcel’s in Washington, D.C., use Gruyere regularly to complement a refined French style cuisine.

Marcel’s, one of Washington’s highest ranked restaurants for food and service, is a Belgian infused, haute-French concept by Chef Robert Weidmaier. Chef de cuisine Paul Stearman finds the fine quality and flavor of Swiss made Gruyere to be a natural addition to Marcel’s menu, which is committed to high quality, source-driven ingredients. Although there are many American made Gruyere-style cheeses available, Stearman is loyal to the Swiss product.

“We only buy it from Switzerland,” he says. “We find that genuine Swiss Gruyere has a better taste and better quality, which is in-line with our cooking philosophy to serve the best at Marcel’s.” He uses Gruyere in many dishes including Quiche Lorraine, a wild mushroom tarte, and a mussel gratin.

“Gruyere is perfect for our mussel gratin because of its delicious taste and consistency. When it melts, it stays soft without becoming chewy or stringy, all while maintaining its depth of flavor and enhancing the overall dish.” Gruyere, readily available in five-pound blocks, is one of the restaurant’s more affordable commodities, notes Stearman.

Of course, a chef does not have to be classically trained in French cuisine to fully appreciate Gruyere and to incorporate it in a menu. The straightforward, familiar style of Ralph Brennan’s café b in Metairie, Louisiana, offers a refined take on American comfort food, using Gruyere in dishes such as their Sage and Thyme Turkey Club. Executive Chef Chris Montero chooses Gruyere for its “deeper and more layered flavors.” He says that it is the perfect component to cafe b’s signature dish, Mac & 3 Cheese, “because its contrasting flavor makes it a  perfect cheese to highlight as a main component in this dish.” Montero purchases the Gruyere from a local boutique imported food distributor, and like Stearman, orders by the five-pound block, usually acquiring twenty pounds at a time.

“I find Gruyere to be one of the more affordable specialty cheeses, which makes it easy to incorporate into any menu. We us it in many dishes at café b.”

Penn Cove Mussels Gratin

By Chef Robert Wiedmaier, Marcel’s

Yields: 4 serving

Ingredients

Garlic, finely diced.   1/4 cup

Shallots, finely diced, 1/2 cups

Penn Cove Mussels [or P.E.I], 48  [4 pounds]

Vermouth, 3 cups

Tomatoes, roughly chopped, 4

Unsalted Butter, 3 tablespoons

Tomato Paste, 1 tablespoon

Fresh Thyme, chopped, 1 tablespoon

Salt, To taste

Pepper, To taste

Heavy Cream, 1 cup

Dijon Mustard, 1 teaspoon

Egg Yolks, 4

Gruyere Cheese, grated, 1 1/2 cups

Procedure

Place a large Dutch oven or saucepan over very high heat. Once heated, add the finely diced garlic and a quarter cup of the shallots to the pot and set the remaining amount aside for later use. Next, add the mussels along with two cups of Vermouth. Cover and cook until the mussels are steamed.

When steamed, remove mussels and take them out of the shell and set aside. Discard shells. Reduce the vermouth by half and then put in the roughly chopped tomatoes. Add in two tablespoons of butter, cook slowly for 30 minutes on simmer. Then add one tablespoon of tomato paste and one tablespoon of freshly chopped thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a separate pot, place the remaining finely diced shallots along with the remaining tablespoon of butter into the pot and sweat the shallots along with one cup of Vermouth. Reduce until almost dry. Next, add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. After it has reached a boil, add the Dijon mustard before turning off the stove to cool. After it has sufficiently cooled, whisk the egg yolks in one at a time ensuring that the temperature is even.

Assembly

To prepare, place the tomato vermouth reduction on the center of an oven-safe plate. Next, arrange the Dijon vermouth mixture equally around the bowl with the steamed mussels on top. Sprinkle the plate generously with Gruyere before placing the dish into an oven and broiling until golden brown. Once broiled, carefully remove the plate and garnish with chives to serve.

 

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