Flexing My Mussels
I don’t eat seafood. As you read in my post “Foods I Pathologically Hate,” I’m very hesitant to try any kind of seafood. Never in my life have I ever cooked with any kind of shellfish. But I was feeling kind of confident, so I told Todd we should try cooking lobster.
We planned on it all week that we would make a fancy lobster dinner on Friday night to take a break from preparing for our Halloween Costume Party. We just discovered a Sendik’s in our neighborhood, so we decided to do our shopping there. We went to pick up our lobster and realized, oh wait, lobster is expensive. $14.99 for a 1-pound or smaller lobster. ($14.99/lb for one bigger than 1 pound.) I’m all for having a fancy dinner, but this wasn’t a real special occasion, and even if it was, I don’t think we could justify spending $30 just on the protein of our dinner.
So we surveyed our other options. I was still feeling adventurous, so I suggested that we try mussels. WHAT?
Let’s rewind and replay… so I suggest that we try mussels. Yeah. That happened.
Todd couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. But we decided to go with it. After all, mussels at Sendik’s were only about $3/lb. Todd looked up a recipe on his phone really quickly, and it seemed like a pretty simple task if we could get up the courage to try it.
We bought a pound and a half of mussels, and the lady behind the counter was nice enough to weigh it, then add a handful more. She said there might be some dead or cracked ones, so she always throws on a few extra so you get your money’s worth. (Sendik’s always has great customer service, and they’re always surprising us like that.)
But enough about us getting up the courage to cook mussels, and on to the actual cooking!
Here’s what you’ll need to fill 2 hungry people to the brim:
12 Tbsp. butter (yes, that is a lot, but you can use less if you want, and it just ends up as a sauce)
1/2 C. finely diced shallots
3/4 C. white wine
1-1/2 lbs of mussels
1 bunch of parsley
1 long baguette
And here’s what you do:
Start by looking over your mussels and pulling out any that are cracked or open. These mussels are dead, and they are not safe to eat. Next, you need to “debeard” the mussels. It basically means cleaning them up. If they have kind of a stringy clump hanging out of their “mouths,” just pull at it to wriggle it free. If you don’t get it all, that’s fine. Just give each mussel a good once-over.
Next, heat the butter in a large pot. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Believe it or not, shallots bother me just as much as regular onions, so Todd handled this step.
While your shallots are cooking, slice your baguette into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick slices, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Next, add the white wine to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Then, add the mussels.
Put a lid on the pot and cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. When your time is up and you take the lid off, you mussels should be open, and it should smell like heaven. Pour into a serving bowl with the sauce.
Chop the parsley and sprinkle it on top of the mussels. Todd and I thought that it might be nice to substitute leaks for the parsley. It would be less bitter and have more of a bite. If you wanted to make this substitution, I would add the leaks for the last 2 minutes while the mussels cook.
The best way to eat these is to dip the toasted bread in the sauce, grab a shell and pull out the mussel (and any parsley and shallots in the shell), and use the bread to scoop up the contents. Avoid the muscle that grips the shell. This is what makes it chewy. I figured that out on my 3rd mussel, and it made the experience a million times better.
I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of this dish. The white wine sauce takes on a rich, earthy, smoky taste from the mussels. It’s a flavor unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, but that’s probably because I don’t eat a lot of shellfish/seafood. When I think of Italian food, I mostly picture pasta, which is probably a common thought. But Italian food is so much more than that, and I’m really happy that we were brave enough to try this authentic dish.
Todd and I spent most of our meal giggling over how we couldn’t believe we were eating mussels, how amazing everything tasted, and what we were going to have to try next. What do you think we could try to top mussels? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow/subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.
Until the next taste,