Driving around Ireland definitely makes you hungry — and sometimes forgetful — so after a day of touring around West Cork I arrived without a reservation at The Fish Kitchen, a smallish restaurant in Bantry situated, appropriately, above a fish market. Call it the luck of the Irish, but proprietor Diarmaid Murphy managed to squeeze in me and my friend because of a cancellation. Great luck, indeed, to grab a table in a place where they focus on three elements of serving fish: freshness, simplicity, and quality. Murphy says: “We do our best not to interfere with the fish, serving it simply skin-side up with a variety of simple butters or sauces on top or on the side. . . . Geographically we’re in an ideal location to keep the distance between the sea and the plate as short as possible,” an ethos not lost on the diners. Here’s one of the standouts on the menu.
BANTRY BAY MUSSELS STEAMED IN CIDER
4 pounds mussels
1 bottle Cronin’s cider, or your favorite brand of craft
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flatleaf parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped dill
1/2 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
Garlic bread, for serving
1. Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels' shells), and discard.
2. Put mussels into a large, high sided saucepan. Turn heat to medium, add cider and garlic, and then turn heat to high. Cover and cook for about 6 minutes, or until shells open (discard any unopened shells).
3. Uncover, stir in scallions, parsley, and dill; squeeze lemon juice on top.
4. To serve, spoon mussels and juice into shallow bowls and top with lemon wedges.
Margaret M. Johnson is the author of "Favorite Flavors of Ireland." To buy a signed copy and GET ONE FREE, visit www.irishcook.com.