Monday, April 12, 2010

Mussels Gratin (Page 334)

RECIPE #1135

  • Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+

I chose this recipe as part of the All Seafood All The Time plan. I steamed mussels in water, then shucked them. I tossed the mussels with pieces of tomato, chopped basil, creme fraiche, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I spooned the mixture into an oiled baking dish. My special gentleman sliced some baguette and rubbed one side of each slice with garlic. He arranged the bread over the mussel mixture and brushed the bread with olive oil. Then we baked the dish until the bread was golden. This dish sounded very promising: crispy bread, tomatoes, cheese, creme fraiche. It seemed like it would be hard to go wrong. Unfortunately, though, this dish just didn't work. The crispy, garlicky baguette slices were obviously delicious. But the mixture underneath was just not tasty. The biggest problem was that when the bread was ready, the tomatoes were still essentially raw. So underneath the bread was a mixture of mussels and raw tomatoes in creme fraiche. It just wasn't good. It also wasn't very flavorful. I can see how mussels tossed with a tomato sauce, or slow-roasted tomatoes, could be delicious. But the mussels and raw tomatoes together with the richness of the creme fraiche just didn't form a cohesive dish. We ended up eating the baguette slices off the top and leaving most of the rest of this dish.

The recipe is here.

I spent this past weekend at a conference in the Canadian Rockies. Two of my good friends, Mike and Vero, were there. At some point we were discussing my project, and they started giving me a hard time about my grading. The complaint was that I am both too harsh at the top (i.e. I don't give enough A grades, and I have never given an A+), and too lenient at the bottom (i.e. I don't give enough C's, D's, and F's). I have heard these complaints from them before, but this time they claimed that I am getting worse as time goes on. That didn't seem necessarily true to me, so I decided to look at the data. Here is the breakdown of letter grades for the last 50 recipes I have made from The Book:

A: 1
A-: 14
B+: 10
B: 12
B-: 9
C+: 3
C: 0
C-: 1
D: 0
F: 0

For comparison, here is the analogous breakdown for the first 50 recipes I made from The Book (back in 2006!).

A: 2
A-: 13
B+: 14
B: 9
B-: 5
C+: 3
C: 1
D+: 1
D: 1
F: 1

So do I think they have a point? Yes and no. On the one hand, I don't think this data suggests that I have gotten any harsher at the top. I have never given many A's and I still don't! On the other hand, one can clearly see that I was giving more lower grades at the beginning. I haven't given any D/F grades in quite some time. So I am going to renew my commitment to upholding my grading scheme, which is explained in detail here. It's tricky though. For instance, to end up with a grade of C+ or below it has to be something that I didn't enjoy eating. This Mussels Gratin recipe, for instance, wasn't good. But I did enjoy eating the toasted baguette slices on top. So I wouldn't feel right giving it a C-, nor would I feel right giving it a B, since I didn't enjoy eating the other half of the dish. So a C+ seemed about right to me, although I am sure I could justify giving it a slightly lower grade too! It's not always clear to me what the appropriate grade should be.


Maura said...

I don't think this satisfies the conditions for a Chi-Square test for Goodness of Fit, but this post made me think there's an application here somewhere.

Teena said...