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The Digesting Game: Mussels

November 13, 2011
by thenestinggame

Do you like the name for the blog spin-off? Ha. Kind of gross, but it makes me laugh.

Today’s post comes from Chef Taylor. Bon Appetit!

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I love the ocean. The sight. The smells. And all the little critters in it, some of which I like to eat. So, whenever Molly and I brave the masses of the bustling Dekalb Farmer’s Market (imagine Chinatown in NYC on a nice weekend afternoon), we often pick up a couple of pounds of mussels. They’re so easy to make, so good and make a relaxing Sunday night comfort meal. The only drawback is that you have to cook them the day you bring them home. (Or the day after in a pinch).

Here’s what you’ll need for my favorite dish of these edible bivalves:

Shallots or an onion

Garlic

Pancetta, prosciutto or bacon

Olive oil, butter or both

White wine (even if it’s a couple days old or came in a box)

Lemon (citrus keeps a long time in the fridge. Keep these and limes around. You never know when you’re going to need a bloody mary or a margarita.)

Blue cheese (a handful of crumbles)

Tabasco

Salt

Mussels (a pound a person)

The only pain in the butt about mussels is cleaning them. You need to yank off the hairy beards that dangle from their shells and need to scrub them pretty good to get rid of the sand that they’ve been nesting in. I usually clean a side of the sink and fill it up with ice water, a few pinches of salt and a little white vinegar. The salt and vinegar help pull out some of the grime. A brush or some steel wool are both great tools for cleaning the shells, but if you love beaches and seafood like me, don’t worry, a little sand never hurt anyone. Just do your best. Keep them in the water only long enough to clean them and keep them cold up until your drop them in the pan.

Dice up your onion. Slice or mince a couple of garlic cloves. Chop up your pork. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in your pan and heat to medium high. Add your pork first, then your onion and then your garlic about 2 minutes apart. Once the onions are translucent and the pork a bit carmelized, deglaze your pan with the wine and the juice from half your lemon.

A glassful of wine is enough and any more than that and your just stealing from your own glass. Add a two-finger pinch of salt and let come to a boil. Be ready and add your mussels. Sprinkle half your blue cheese crumbles over them. This will make the broth a bit creamier. You should have a big enough pan that they are basically in a single layer. Now, you don’t have to cover the pan, but I find you get a more evenly cooked mussel if you do. Whether you cover it or not, keep the pan moving so that the hot liquid bounces around the mussels and the shells flip over on occasion. Once a mussel’s shell pops open, it is done.

This will only take a couple of minutes. And they won’t all cook at the same time, so take them out with tongs as soon as they pop open. (Tongs are basically an extension or your thumb and finger and are my all-time favorite cooking utensil. Use a spoon if you don’t have them and then buy some the next time your at the store. Cheap ones are the best kind.) Don’t worry about them getting cold while you wait for the others to pop. You have all that hot liquid to pour over them in the end. I put them right in their serving bowl for me and the Mrs.

Once all the mussels are out, add a light squeeze of the other half of your lemon, hit with a dash of Tabasco and a tablespoon of butter. The fresh lemon will brighten the broth, the Tabasco adds some depth and butter carries the flavor. Take off of the heat and stir until the butter has melted. Your tongue is skin and skin is oily and butter too is oily. In other words, butter introduces your tasty flavor friends to your taste buds via oil. Pour the broth evenly over your bowls of mussels, sprinkle with the remaining morsels of blue cheese and serve with a fresh baguette­ –you’re going to need something to soak up all that goodness, after all. And don’t forget an extra bowl to hold all those pesky empty shells.

This meal relaxes me as much as CBS Sunday Morning’s nature segment or the tick tock interludes of 60 Minutes. What’s your Sunday evening, just-went-to-the-grocery dinner?

Thanks to Taylor for writing this post and also for going to the store for whatever we are going to eat tonight while I stay at home and tend to the blog.

Also, if anyone would like a $5 off coupon to try Black Box wines (about $20/box. 1 box = 4 bottles), just send me an email with your mailing address to thenestinggame @ gmail . com. I have 15 to share. First-come, first-served. Full disclosure, I am a Bzzz Agent and have been given these coupons as an incentive to try and write about the wine. I have only tried the white so far, but for cheapy wine, I give it two thumbs up.

Enjoy your Sunday night, gang.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. leslie c permalink
    November 14, 2011 9:10 am

    YUM! Dammit, now I want shellfish at 9 am.

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      November 14, 2011 10:32 pm

      It’s Moules time somewhere…

  2. November 14, 2011 1:38 pm

    Love mussels. My favorite preparation is at this gastropub (http://revbrew.com/) in the Logan Square area of Chicago. Hard cider, blue cheese, leek, granny smith apple. At home I do a more traditional (white wine, butter, shallots) and am always amazed by how easy they are. Pork would only improve them but I’m still not back on the mammal horse (no pun intended).

    As for me, one of my go-to Sunday night meals is veggie chili. Or anything that can simmer along in a crock pot all day, flavors melding until the taste is ideal.

    When is the next Taylor post?

    Also, Leslie, what is going on in your WordPress profile picture. Love it.

    • Taylor permalink
      November 14, 2011 3:12 pm

      I may have to try the Revolution Brewing version. That sounds pretty interesting.

      As for Leslie’s profile pic, you both may enjoy this series of revamped album covers:
      http://thekittencovers.tumblr.com/

      I think the T.Rex one may be my personal favorite.

    • thenestinggame permalink*
      November 14, 2011 10:33 pm

      BEACHBALL! I never met that cat, but his legend persists.

      Thanks for giving Taylor more ammo! I declare this winter to be the soup winter. Every year I think, “I should make soup.” But I never do.

  3. Tony Molina permalink
    November 14, 2011 2:59 pm

    Taylor, great pics and narrative, I can almost smell them. What a great combination of flavors, the blue cheese and pancetta how can you go wrong. You’ll have to make them for us sometime when your in town. I like to grill my bread a little and then rub a little garlic on the slices.

    Last night it was Lamb Shanks, a little involved and a tad messy, but worth the effort. Not to mention we will have it again tonight. We’ll have to finish that Rioja as well.

    • Taylor permalink
      November 14, 2011 3:14 pm

      I’ve always liked you Tony – a man of my own heart. It’s also hard to go wrong with Lamb Shanks, Garlic Bread and Rioja too.

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