Is there any way I can cut down on the amount of liquid that this dish gives off a bit? (I did not try the mussels first after scrubbing, debeardi... and soaking, would that help?) I'm doing this again tomorrow, so feedback soon would be great

Rachel Phipps


nancy E. January 29, 2014
That recipe sounds amazing! And fyi, spruce cones and fir cones are very different from pine cones
Pegeen January 28, 2014
p.s. Just wanted to say, if cooking with pinecones becomes the next big thing in Brooklyn or Salt Lake City or wherever. Or Lena Dunham mentions it on GIRLS: you heard Pine Mussels here first, from Dione Lucas's book.
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Thanks, everyone, for all the research and thoughts.

I guess I'm not surprised that wasn't a popular method and doesn't show up in many sources. In 1947 when the book came out, it was the beginning of the "convenience" boom - electric appliances, etc. I guess no one wanted to go foraging for pinecones.
I'd really like to try this when the weather gets warmer and I can get some pinecones and dry them out. My pine tree guru tells me that various trees produce pinecones at various times of the year depending on their health, except when they're dormant during winter.

The only thing I'm concerned about is that if there is sap in the pinecone and it heats up, could it pop and burn you. I guess a splatter guard might be in order.

Thanks again!
ChefJune January 28, 2014
I just googled Moules Forestières and there are no pine cones in the recipes that came up. Lots of mushrooms, though.
And no Mussels Forestière in my edition of Larousse.
Greenstuff January 28, 2014
I think the pine in the Charente-Maritime is the Aleppo pine, the same one used in retsina. But it could be that Paula Wolfert was being a bit conservative. After all, our world is now rife with various spruce bed and Doug fir concoctions.

Greenstuff January 28, 2014
Really intriguing, Pegreen. The pine needle method is from the Charente-Maritime, an area that reminds me of the New Jersey pine barrens, so that may be the region to look at. In a quick look, I found that the method is also in Paula Wolfert's World of Food. In it, she cautions that the pine needles must be absolutely dry and that no other evergreens should be substituted. I'd guess that the same advice would be good for the pine cones.
Rachel P. January 28, 2014
So the big question is, what sort of pine cones are we supposed to use?
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Chris - Thanks. I've also seen pine needles for various cooking uses. But this was clearly for pine cones, not pine needles. It's intriguing, so I'll write it down here in case anyone else has knowledge of using pinecones.

Moules Forestières

3 dozen large mussels
salt and black pepper
2 dozen pine cones
4 tablespoons butter or fat
1/4 cup thin cream
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
cayenne pepper

Scrub the mussels thoroughly and put in a pan. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Scatter over the top 2 dozen pine cones. Light them and let them burn out. By this time the mussels will have opened. Remove and discard the top shells and arrange the mussels in the bottom shells on a hot, fireproof dish. Melt the butter or fat in a pan and add the cream, cheese, salt, black pepper and a little cayenne pepper. Beat well and pour over the mussels. Sprinkle the top with a little more cheese and brown quickly under the grill. Serve at once."

The Cordon Bleu Cookbook, author Dione Lucas, page 126
Copyright 1947 renewed 1975, Little Brown
Library of Congress 81-81639
Greenstuff January 28, 2014
Pine cones, I haven't heard about. Pine needles, yes. Paula Wolfert describes it in her book Cooking of South-west France: the mussels are arranged tightly on a wooden plank, hinge-side up. They must be packed so tightly that the shells do not open during cooking. They are covered with a 5-inch layer of partly dried pine needles, which are set on fire. When the flames die out, the ashes are brushed away, and the mussels are eaten by increasingly ash-blackened finger tips.
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Thanks, Rachel, for the tips and Toulouse suggestion. The book was published in 1947 so this may be a recipe that has passed into the fog of history. (btw, no mushrooms or allumettes in Lucas's version.) Cheers!
Rachel P. January 28, 2014
If it has vanished, you need to try it then, for better or worse. Who knows, it could turn out to be the very best way of cooking mussels ever!
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Since you spend time in France, maybe you can help me with this mussels question: I came across a Dione Lucas recipe (The Cordon Bleu Cookbook) for Moules Forestieres. You place a couple quarts of mussels in a big roasting pan and scatter 2 DOZEN PINECONES on top of them, light the pinecones and let them burn out. Discard pinecones. Mussels will have opened. Remove top shells from mussels, lightly spoon a cream & Parmesan sauce over mussels, run under broiler.
I imagine the pinecones serve much like wood chips, but there must be pine sap in the cones that would drip onto the mussels?
Unfortunately, Lucas does not give any information on the geographic origins of the dish. Was just thinking that in a coastal region like Brittany, you might have heard of it.
p.s. Am available any week in July to scrub, de-beard and cook as many mussels as you like in Brittany! ;-)
Rachel P. January 28, 2014
That sounds crazy. I'm afraid I've never hear of the dish in our region, I think it is because the pine cones are from somewhere else because I walk in the forest a fair bit and all I ever find are fungi (which I need to learn to forage correctly) and chestnuts. Have you got a copy of Larousse? It would be my first instinct to look in there, but I'm not in the same place as the copy I use at the moment otherwise I'd look it up for you. A quick Google tells me that it is from around Toulouse, which is down South near where I spent loads of time growing up, so makes sense as I was always gathering pine cones as a kid! However, I've had a quick read of all the recipes on various French language blogs and none of them seem to reference the pine cones, it seems to be a dish with mushrooms and cream, sometimes allumettes that is common in most grocery stores, that is basically a French bacon/ pancetta hybrid.

And it is London the scrubbing and de-bearding gets me down. When I went in this morning and could not see any on the counter, I asked my fishmonger if he had any and he got some out for me with the words "yes, but they will take some scrubbing" by way of a warning. But anyway, understatement on the century! In Brittany, why would I cook my own moules when I can get moules mariniere, French bread, a good glass of red wine, and a butter and sugar crepe for 12€ ($16.50)?!
Rachel P. January 28, 2014
Yes I do! I have a home in Brittany, Northern France and I think if I ate mussels in any other way in a restaurant there I'd get thrown out! I originally learnt watching a 5 year old do it at the next table when I first moved there.
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Just a fun tip: do you know of this mussel-eating technique? You use a fork to pry a mussel out of its shell (then eat it, of course!). Then use that empty mussel shell as a pincers to pluck the other mussels out of their shells. A nice French waiter tolerant of Americans showed me how to do that. :-)
Pegeen January 28, 2014
Patting the mussels dry is a good idea. There is not a lot of added liquid in the recipe so it may just be the natural liquids steaming inside the oven. One thing you could do is remove the top half of each mussel and pour out the "liquor" (save it for a broth) but the mussel liquid is usually a coveted part of eating the mussels. Another thing you could do, if your concern is that the toast is getting too soggy, is just to put all the mussels in their opened shells with the tomatoes, etc. in bowls and just keep toast points or slices of baguette on the side for dunking and mopping up the juice (or spoons!).
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