Mussels Escabeche on Toast

Practical note: You'll need to start brining the mussels at least 6 hours before you plan on serving them. Even better is the night before.

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup halved and thinly sliced carrots
1/4 cup finely diced fennel
1/4 cup finely diced onion
Half a stick of cinnamon
A few strips of lemon peel

50 mussels (about 2 pounds)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 bunches of cilantro

1 baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Aioli
1 lemon
Parsley sprigs for garish

Make the brine:
Toast the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and chile flakes in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or so, until fragrant. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the vinegars, olive oil, vegetables, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel.

Prepare the mussels:
Soak the mussels in cld water for 15 to 20 minutes, changing the water 3 or 4 times, until it remains clear, then drain them. Discard any mussels with open or broken shells.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, until it just begins to soften. Add the mussels and wine and cover the pot. After 2 minutes of steaming, take off the lid and transfer the open mussels to a bowl. Continue removing mussels as they open until nearly none remain in the pot. Set the cooking liquid aside and discard any unopened mussels.

Carefully remove the mussels from their shells and remove the beards, if there are any. Drop the mussels into the brine. Add the cooled cooking liquid from the pot and bowl and stir gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

Using a juicer, juice the cilantro and transfer 5 tablespoons of the juice to a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. (This can be done up to a day ahead of time.)

Make the toasts:
Preheat the broiler. With a serrated knife, cut the baguette into 4 even pieces, then cut each in half lengthwise. Square off the pieces by removing most but not all of the crust from all sides. (You want the bottoms of the toasts to easily absorb the cilantro juice, and you don't want to work very hard to bite into them.). Slice into about sixteen 1 by 2-inch pieces. Place the pieces on a baking sheet and lightly brush each toast with olive oil. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside.

To serve, drain the mussels in a colander placed over a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of the brine to the cilantro juice and stir lightly.

Divide the toasts among four shallow bowls. Top each toast with a generous teaspoon of aioli, followed by 2 mussels that are generally free of chile flakes or seeds. Add a few bits of vegetables and 2 or 3 seeds to each toast. (You don't want too many seeds - they're potent.) Give each toast a rasp of lemon zest.

Pour 5 tablespoons of the briny cilantro juice around the toasts in each of the four bowls. Do not pour the juice over them. Garnish with a few parsley leaves.

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