November 6, 2013

Mussels Revisited

I am a freak for mussels.  I order them when dining out as much as I can. They are delicious, fun to eat and there’s just something so satisfying about sopping up the delicious cooking broth they are steamed in with a hunk of crusty bread.  

A few weeks ago, I was at a very well respected local restaurant (that shan’t be named) where I have never ordered anything that wasn’t delicious. I was truly disappointed with the mussels...oh so fishy and covered in gloppy gross Italian-chain-restaurant-style tomato sauce. 

I was immediately inspired to make them (obviously better) at home. I posted a similar recipe last year – but we all improve with age and so should our recipes, right?

Did you know that mussels have anti-inflammatory properties and are a source of omega-3 fatty acids?  Not to mention they are a great source of protein and nutrients like zinc, vitamin C and selenium (and the list goes on.)

Not that you need another reason to eat them other than their scrumptiousness.

When purchasing mussels, it's so important to use a reputable fishmonger.  Make sure the mussels smell like the ocean, not fishy. Don’t buy any with cracked shells. Try to cook the mussels the day you purchase them. Unwrap them as soon as you arrive home - place them in a bowl covered in a damp cloth in the refrigerator so they can breathe.

To clean the mussels, scrub them clean under running water (if dirty) then put them in a large bowl and cover them with cool salted water. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain. Discard any that aren’t tightly shut or refuse to close when you handle them or tap on the shell.  Looking over the closed mussels, see if any still have their beards (hairy threads that help them attach to surfaces) and remove these with your fingers or a kitchen towel for better grip, pulling slowly and strongly toward the hinge of the shell.

Sauté the shallots and hot pepper flakes.

Add tomatoes and garlic.

Mussels Steamed in White Wine 
Serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 large tomato, diced small
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Grilled or toasted crusty bread for dipping

In a large non-aluminum stockpot (a coated cast-iron Dutch oven is perfect here) heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and hot pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes, until shallots are translucent.  Add the wine, vermouth, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot and cook over medium heat for anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes, giving them a stir halfway through, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). Pour the mussels and broth into a large bowl and serve hot with plenty of crusty bread for dipping.


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