I love most seafood. Lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops- all favorites. But I was never a big fan of clams, especially the raw ones. And mussels – not so much either.
But, my other half really loves mussels. I mean really loves them.
He orders them by the trough-full, if we go out to any French restaurant. And speaking of the French, they do mussels, like the Italians do pasta. Often, with many variations and always good!
So, for some odd reason (which for the life of me escapes me now), I decided I would try making them for dinner. (Why didn’t I stick to my usual man-pleasing staple of chocolate chip cookies?)
I have never bought, nor cleaned, prepped, cooked, de bearded or whatever else you need to do to a mollusk before eating it.
So, I consulted the BIG book of anything-you-ever-wanted-to know-about-preparing-food. A little ditty by Jacques Pepin.
And yes Chris, you were right. Quelle Surprise! You told me that even though there were things in that book -like chopping off a ducks head and plucking the pin feathers out- that I wouldn’t use, it would, in fact, come in handy one day.
So, armed with BIG BOOK and an idea of ingredients I had seen in the dish from when Chris has ordered it a thousand times before, we started.
Now, the biggest pain in the ass and time sucking activity is the cleaning.
You basically need to clean and inspect each mussel. You want only mussels that are alive. And you want to use them the same day you buy them. If they are closed, that is a good sign. If they are open, gently slide a knife in to touch the mussel. If the shell closely slowly, that is also a good sign. If not, toss it – it is dead as a doornail!
Next, you clean. Scrub the outside, cut off the beard (though sometimes this is done for you already), and soak them a few times.
The first time, throw a few handfuls of flour into the water. This will encourage them too release their sand. You don’t want gritty mollusks! Soak for about an hour.
Second soak should be plain cool water, for about half an hour.
Rinse again and you are ready to begin cooking. Here is what you will need to serve 2:
2 pounds of mussels
about a cup of good white wine
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
few glugs of good olive oil
bunch of chopped parsley
a few springs of fresh thyme
a few threads of saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1 bay leaf
3-4 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
In a large Dutch oven, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add shallot, cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients(except mussels), stir, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Then add mussels and stir them gently. Cover and steam for only about 4-5 minutes, until they open. Not any longer. It is important not to overcook them- they will turn to rubber.
It is a good idea to shake the pot a few times, so that the mussels don’t stick and burn.
And again, discard any mussels that did not open during the cooking process.
Pour the entire mixture into a large bowl, spooning the broth over the mussels. Serve in individual bowls with a glass of the white wine used in the recipe and large chunks of baguette to soak up all the delicious juices. Bibs are also a welcome idea.
You can also pour the entire mixture over linguine for a hardier dinner.
I now look forward to cooking up some variations in the sauce, like pernod and cream or Provençal with tomatoes. Oh the possibilities…..
Do you like mussels? What is your favorite way to prepare or eat them?
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