Friday, February 3, 2012

Whole Foods Friday: Beer Mussels

Mussels seem kind of fancy, don't they? You'll see them as an appetizer on a lot of restaurant menus, but I've been known to eat that appetizer as a meal, dunking bread in the broth until there's nothing left of either the broth or the bread.

When it comes down to it, mussels are incredibly easy to cook. The hardest part is deciding what sort of broth you'll be dipping the bread in.

Wine-based broths are pretty common, and tomatoes often play a role. But beer-based broths can be very interesting, as well. I find that a Belgian ale is a good choice, with its notes of citrus. There are plenty of Belgian ales on the market, but if you don't have a favorite, Blue Moon is readily available.

If you happen to have leftover mussels and broth, you can make a completely different meal the next day. Mussels don't reheat particularly well - they can become rubbery if you're not careful. But this leftover recipe doesn't cook the mussels much more - it just warms them enough for serving.

As for the bread, check the next post. I wouldn't leave you without that!

Mussels in Beer Broth

3 pounds mussels, cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 ounces beer

Sort through the mussels and discard any that aren't closed or that don't close when tapped.

Heat a pot large enough to easily hold all of the mussels over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables soften. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes and stir briefly.

Add the mussels, lemon juice, and beer, and put the lid on the pot. Cook until the mussels open - about five minutes or so. shaking the pot a few times during cooking. When the mussels are open, they're done. Discard any mussels that don't open.

Serve the mussels with broth, along with bread for dipping.

Next-Day Mussel Pasta
For the pasta, you'll have to judge for yourself how much to make, based on how many people you're feeding and how much you have left over.

Left over mussels and broth
Pasta, cooked (I used angel hair)

Remove the meat from the left over mussels, chop finely, and set aside.

Put the mussel broth in a saute pan and cook on medium heat to reduce it to about 1/4 its original volume. Taste for seasoning and add salt, thyme, or more lemon juice, as desired.

Cook the pasta until just al dente, then add it to the sauce in the pan. Cook and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the reserved chopped mussels and cook for a few seconds more to warm the mussels. Serve warm.

For more info on Whole Foods Friday, see the tab at the top.