First the raw mussels must be prepared. Wash under cool water until the water runs clear, scrubbing off any grit. Remove the mussel’s beard. To check they are all alive check if any are slightly open, if they are, give them hard tap. The ones that do not close may well be dead so discard.
Place a pan, that with fit the mussels in with a lid, to a medium to high heat and add the knob of butter, followed by the lardons. Fry for roughly 4-5 minutes until starting to crisp up.
Finely slice the shallot and garlic, dicing the red chilli into small pieces, removing seeds if possible. Add all to the lardons and continue to fry for a minute or so. Now add the mussels followed by the cider and most of the thyme. Give a good shake and put the lid on.
Continue to cooking for roughly 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. To check they are done, they should have all opened. Remove from the heat and add the cream and an extra sprinkle of the remaining thyme, give a good shake.
There may be a few that have not opened, discard if so as is usually an indication they were dead.
Serve with some bread to mop up the sauce, toasted if it’s your preference.
The best way to eat mussels is to pull the mussel out of your first shell and then use the empty shell as a pincer to remove the rest. There is a long standing saying when it comes to eating mussels to ensure you are eating them at the right time of year.
Only eat mussels in months with an ‘R’ in…
I believe this is actually a ‘common lore’ for most shellfish. With oysters and mussels, September through to April is the best time to eat them as they are at maturity, this allows time for them to repopulate naturally in the following summer months. Mussels are also said to taste different when spawning, with an off-putting flavour.