I saw a recipe in Bon Apetit for Mussels, that involved sake and hot Thai chiles, and as a theory, it sounded delicious. However, I've never had sake. And while I do love wine, I'm not 100% sure my feelings on Sake. Mostly because y'know.... I've never had it.
Also, I don't 100% love speecy spicy food. So basically, it was a bit of a risk for me to try and make the mussel dish. But I was thinking about mussels anyways. Then, yesterday, in Whole Foods on a rogue trip, I saw bags of mussels, for a very reasonable price, just sitting on ice all beautiful and shiny. It got them in my head again.
Last night, I kind of lobbied for Mussels to be tonight's dinner.
Whole Foods had them for about.... 4 dollars for a 2-lb bag. Of fresh Maine mussels. This was good shit. So we bought them, along with some nice dry white wine, and some curly parsley, shallots, and bread. You don't need anything else to make mussels, except maybe some garlic.
Sidenote - while I was standing perusing the bread selection at Whole Foods -- and I'll admit that I'm the jackass that squeezes every loaf and tries to find one that sounds right, smells right, etc. -- I deemed pretty much every baguette there to be either a). seeded/multigrain, b). sourdough, (which is delicious, but not what I want) or c). thoroughly lackluster. Then, all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman reloading the bread holders. Right there in front of me were several to many beautiful fresh hot baguettes that were still crispy and hadn't gotten soft or soggy from being put hot into paper bags and left to languish on the racks. I immediately grabbed two in addition to the beautiful round bread that I'd chosen for tonight's dinner. I even unknowingly convinced the woman standing in line next to us to grab one for herself -- she had a chunk torn out to eat before she was even fully back to her cart. I love New York.
So, Jesse and I sat in Union Square, listening to a boy with an accordion and a girl with a guitar sing olde-tyme country songs (think the Carter family, and standards like "Look on the sunny side") in a kind of bluegrassy/1940's radio way, and eating one of those lovely baguettes with a wonderful soft cheese that we'd bought as an homage to the days when 1/3 of our food budget every time we shopped was cheese. It was such a beautiful moment. I loved it. I never wanted it to end. -- Also, the boy and girl had a La Squisita tomatoes can out, and a sign on the boy's accordion case that said "Proceeds to OBAMA" and I fell for them. 3 dollars I gave them. Love.
Then I came home and eventually set to the mussels. The recipe was stupidly simple, an element that I love. Basically, you chop up two garlic cloves, and smush them around with your knife's flat side and some salt until they're pastey. Then, you roughly chop up one big shallot. Cook that in olive oil until the shallots get soft - about 4 minutes? Just enough time for you to sort through your mussels (about 2lbs is good) and THROW AWAY ANY THAT ARE ALREADY OPEN. This is an indicator of dead mussels -- not good times before you kill them by boiling them.
Once the shallots are soft, add about a cup and a half of dry white wine, and bring to a boil. I used a large flat-bottomed, straight-sided skillet for this. When it boils, dump in all your (closed) mussels, and cover. Let this boil until all the mussels open up - this usually takes about 6 minutes apparently. While this is happening, feel free to pour a glass of wine, if you're the drinkin' type. Consequently, if you're not, you can probably use chicken broth and lemon juice and get a pretty tasty variation.
While the mussels are steaming, you can also chop up your loaf of beautiful bread (preferably crusty) and throw it under the broiler until it's time to take the mussels out. When they're all open (THROW AWAY ANY THAT DON'T OPEN!!!), take them out with a slotted spoon, and put them in a large bowl (possibly the one that you used to sort them in the first place, only washed out now). Put 2 tablespoons of butter, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and boil the sauce until it reduces about 1/4. I didn't do the reducing, and in retrospect, it would have been a good idea. I just kind of waited for the butter to melt, and while that was happening, I took the bread out, drizzled it with a little olive oil, and sprinkled on a little salt and pepper.
This is what it looked like:
I prettied it up by putting the bread in the metal bowl - you use the bread to soak up the saucy juicy bits after you've eaten some of the mussels. It might even be better than the mussels themselves. But not quite.
As evidence, this is what it looked like after, for possibly the first time ever, I ate more than Jesse:
That's right. We polished off two pounds of mussels. I probably ate more than Jesse. If I'd let the sauce reduce more, there wouldn't be that much left.
This would also be delicious with pasta of some sort. Probably Linguine - a riff on linguine with clams. In fact, this is a pretty shmancy dish called "Moules Meunieres" -- steamed mussels in wine and butter sauce. Which is what we have here. For a little spiciness, which I'd recommend, crushed red pepper flake would be nice.
I loved this.
I'm so happy I made it. Because even if Jesse and Kristin didn't enjoy it.... for whatever reason.... I loved it and I'm happy and fulfilled. A good way to be.
So on that note, good night folks, until next time.... In which we bid winter goodbye with the last "warm & hearty" meal of the season -- baked ziti. Heh.