Thursday, October 13, 2011

mmmm..... mussels (with bacon)

the chilly rainy weather calls for soups, chilis, + stews. we put on a pot of chili to slow-cook tonight so we could enjoy it later in the week. simultaneously, we prepped some mussels in a white wine garlic broth for dinner. cricket had the genius idea to add bacon. brilliant!!

[4 slices of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces, cooking until crisp. i love this smell]
[about 8 cloves of garlic & 2 shallots, roughly chopped]
[2.5 cups of white wine, italian seasoning, + crushed red pepper added to the crispy bacon + sauteed garlic & shallots]
i remember the first time i ever tried mussels. i must have been averse to them for some reason, though i couldn't tell you why. i've loved raw oysters & crawfish since i was 18 months old, so it wasn't a seafood-in-a-shell issue or a texture issue. i think i'd just always been intimidated by them. i wasn't sure how to eat them, how to prep them, how to open them.

that was until a fateful day a group of work friends went out to celebrate...celebrate exactly what, i can't remember. but i do remember that lara ordered mussels. i smelled the rich garlicky aroma long before they arrived at the table, and when they were placed in front of me, i must have experienced what recovering alcoholics face every time they walk down a bar-lined street. an all-over tingle that made me incredibly envious of my neighbor's plate. the warm rich broth covering those peculiar shelled sea-nuggets perplexed me. lara was sweet enough to share, and the love affair began.

[1.5 pounds of washed + de-bearded mussels]

for a long time, i assumed that the preparation was incredibly complicated, something only accomplished culinary experts should attempt. so i just ordered them at restaurants. i mean it was a lot to deal with: the hard shells, the fuzzy beards, the seafood smells, the popping or not-popping safety confusion. it was all a lot to consider.
[my version of cooking with wine: some for the mussels, some for me.]

i'm not sure what inspired me to finally attempt it, but i remember my first time. it was at my old condo, entertaining my now in-laws. maybe for some special occasion, but maybe not. i was amazed at how incredibly simple these suckers were. and it combined some of my favorite ingredients: wine, garlic, butter.

[whisking the butter into the broth]
so tonight, once i got them on the brain, there was no turning back. cricket suggested adding some bacon to them...somehow. so i scoured for recipes and decided to modify this one from always order dessert.

serves 2 for dinner (4 for an appetizer)

2 pounds mussels [i ended up cooking about 1 1/2 pounds after losing 1/2 pound that had "popped"]
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 strips center-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 pieces
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
8 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
2.5 cups white wine (i used Chardonnay)
3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
rustic italian baguette (or other crusty loaf)

1. Scrub and debeard the mussels under cold water. Discard any that are cracked or which do not close completely after being touched. Set aside.

2. In a large dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pieces of bacon and let cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.

3. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until shallots are translucent and garlic has just a hint of color (about 2-3 minutes).

4. Warm the baguette at 250F for about 5 minutes.

5. Add wine, red pepper, and italian seasoning and bring to a simmer. Once the wine is boiling, add the mussels to the pot and cover. Let mussels steam for 2-3 minutes, then gently toss. Recover and let steam for an additional 4 minutes, until most of the mussels have opened all the way. (there may be a couple that don't open)

6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels to a large bowl. Discard any mussels that didn't open all the way during cooking.

7. Return the pot with the broth to the flame and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly reduced.

8. Pour broth over the mussels and serve with a warmed bread.


Mussels are incredibly inexpensive. Our market sells them for like $2.50/pound, so this is a very affordable meal for two.
Mussels, 2 lbs = $5.00
White wine, cheapo Chardonnay = $2.50
Pair of rustic baguettes = $3.00

Total cost for dinner for 2 = $10.50

ps- i finally tried picnik to edit these photos--i think i like it!

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