Adventures in Everyday Entertaining
Mussels have always been one of those foods that I really enjoyed ordering in restaurants but have been TERRIFIED of making at home. I mean, they’re shells. What if I cook them wrong? What if I don’t clean them properly and they taste like sand? But, that’s what The Creative Kitchen Challenge is about! Taking a chance on a new ingredient to face these uncertainties. And I am so glad I did! They really were wonderful tasting. But the best part is that they weren’t that difficult to make. In fact, I was shocked at how easy it was!
I decided to start with the basics. My husband having never tried mussels before, I didn’t want to over-complicate the flavors. So I turned to Julia Child. Mastering the Art of French Cooking offers a great intro to the subject of mussels with detailed instructions to scrubbing and soaking. We served the mussels with thinly sliced garlic bread topped with melted Parmesan cheese.
I would suggest getting your mussels at a good seafood counter where they will “test” each of the mussels before bagging them for you. When a mussel is tapped lightly on a counter top, they should automatically close. If they don’t, it’s not a good mussel. This generally is not a food that gets worked into a strictly budgeted grocery list (well unless you live in an area where they are caught fresh). But watch for sales, always paying attention to the quality of the seafood as well. As we discovered last night, they are well worth it!
Fresh Mussels Steamed Open in Wine and Flavorings –Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, Julia Child
GREEN DOOR ADDITIONS: So, very rarely do I follow a recipe to the letter and not make any modifications. And this recipe wasn’t any different.
Before being cooked, carefully scrub the mussels to remove sand, dirt, and slime. Your grocer or fish market should have removed most of this, but it is important to give them one final scrub. Once cleaned, set the mussels in a deep bowl of fresh water for an hour or two so they will disgorge their sand and also loose a bit of their saltiness. Lift the mussels out of the water into a colander, wash and drain them again. Now they are ready to cook.
Bring the wine to a boil in the dutch oven with the rest of the ingredients listed (minus the mussels). Boil for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate its alcohol and to reduce its volume slightly.
Add the mussels to the dutch oven. Cover tightly and boil quickly over high heat. Frequently grasp the pot with both hands, your thumbs clamped to the cover, and toss the mussels in the pot with an up and down slightly jerky motion so the mussels will change levels and cook evenly.* In about 5 minutes the shells will swing open and the mussels are done.
With a big skimmer, dip the mussels into wide soup plates or one large serving dish. All the cooking liquid to settle for a moment so any sand will sink to the bottom. Then ladle the liquid over the mussels and serve immediately.
*Tossing the mussels in a dutch oven is a bit of a trick since it is a heavier pot and I was afraid to crack the mussels. My advice: Do the best you can.
For more information about The Creative Kitchen Challenge, visit Things My Belly Likes
Coming up tomorrow, my adventure with the Cremini Mushroom!