Friday, March 8, 2013

Whole Foods Friday - Mussels 3 Ways

Mussels are so incredibly fast and easy to cook, they're the perfect thing to pick up at the store when you need to get dinner on the table right after you get home. All you need is some crusty bread to dip into the broth.

Speaking of the broth, for some people that's the whole point of making mussels - having that broth to dip the bread into.

Buttered or not, toasted or not, that's up to you. Of all the possible sides to serve with those mussels, bread seems to be the must-have item. So pick up a baguette at the store, and you're good to go.

You could serve a green salad with the mussels, or perhaps a bowl of olives or something else from the salad bar. But really, the mussels and the bread is plenty. Figure about a pound of mussels per person.

Depending on where you get them, you might need to scrub the mussels really well before cooking, to remove any sand and grit. Or they might just need a little rinse.

If the mussels still have the "beard" attached, you need to remove that as well - just grab and pull. I have a pair of kitchen-only pliers that make the job a little easier, but it can be done by hand.

I bought my mussels at Whole Foods and they weren't gritty at all. Maybe one mussel from each 2-pound batch had a bit of the beard poking out of the shell. Not a big deal at all.

Any mussels that aren't firmly closed when you get them - or that don't close when you tap them - should be discarded. If any have broken shells, toss those as well.

When you're done cooking, any mussels that haven't opened should be discarded as well. It's not unusual to have a dead mussel or two in a batch, and it's also not unusual for the fishmonger to throw in a few extra mussels after weighing out what you pay for, just to cover this contingency. But you shouldn't end up with a LOT of dead mussels.

I always cook mussels on the day I buy them, but if you need to buy them ahead, ask the fish guy how you should store them. You need to keep them chilled, and you shouldn't store them in a closed container - they need to breathe. The plastic bag they came in from the store had holes poked in it, just for this purpose.

As far as cooking, the flavoring options are endless - wine is a typical flavoring, but beer is also becoming popular. Then you can start thinking about adding other flavors and spices to complement the wine or to make its own statement.

Belgian Beer Mussels
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
You'll be left with 1/2 bottle of Belgian Ale, but I think you'll figure out something to do with it. Look for a Belgian ale that's got citrus and spice flavors, if you can. If your beer selections are limited, you could opt for a lighter beer and rely on the added citrus to bring the flavor.

2 pound mussels, scrubbed
1/2 bottle Belgian Ale
1/2 cup orange juice
Pinch ground cardamom

Put the ale, orange juice, and cardamom into a deep pot, wok, or Dutch oven that will accommodate the mussels. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir them around a bit, and slam on the lid. Cook, until the mussels open - it's just a few minutes, and you don't want to overcook.

If the mussels are in layers in the pot, it's fine to give them a quick stir after a minute or two when you check how they're cooking, but you really do want to leave that lid on to allow them to steam.

Serve immediately, with all of the broth.

Southwestern Mussels
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
Jalapeno adds a spicy punch to these mussels, but they aren't crazy hot. If you're skittish about heat, use less pepper, and make sure you avoid using the seeds and ribs. You could also add the jalapeno whole, with a few holes poked into it with a knife before cooking. You'll get some heat, but not as much, and you can remove the pepper before serving.

2 pound mussels, scrubbed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Put the tomatoes, wine, jalapeno, lime juice, and scallions into a deep pot, wok, or Dutch oven that will accommodate the mussels. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir them around a bit, and slam on the lid. Cook, until the mussels open - it's just a few minutes, and you don't want to overcook.

If the mussels are in layers in the pot, it's fine to give them a quick stir after a minute or two when you check how they're cooking, but you really do want to leave that lid on to allow them to steam.

Serve immediately, with all of the broth.

Mediterranean Mussels
Recipe © by www.cookistry.com. Do not republish without permission.
Italian-inspired mussels, these would be my choice to serve over pasta, but the sauce would need a bit of thickening. A spoon of tomato paste stirred into the sauce (after removing the mussels) and a dab of butter or splash of olive oil would give some extra body to the sauce. Of course, this is also great served with hunks  of crusty bread to dip into the broth.

2 pound mussels, scrubbed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
1 large clove garlic, diced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
Small hand full basil leaves

Put the tomatoes, white wine, garlic, shallot, and fennel into a deep pot, wok, or Dutch oven that will accommodate the mussels. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir them around a bit, and slam on the lid. Cook, until the mussels open - it's just a few minutes, and you don't want to overcook.

If the mussels are in layers in the pot, it's fine to give them a quick stir after a minute or two when you check how they're cooking, but you really do want to leave that lid on to allow them to steam.

Just before serving, toss in the basil leaves (you can keep them whole, or slice into ribbons, whichever you prefer) Stir.

Serve immediately, with all of the broth. If you like, you can reserve a few small basil leaves for garnish when serving.

So ... which one are you going to try first?
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