Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mussels in a White Wine Sauce

I really wasn't a fan of mussels until I took a term abroad trip to France during high school.  My classmate and I ate dinner with our host family each night and this meal consisted of whatever our host mom decided to cook that day.  One night she came to the table with a huge bowl of mussels.  I had never tried them before, but since it's sort of frowned upon to turn down the main course, I tentatively placed a few mussels on my plate and tested it out.  And I liked it.

Ever since, I tend to go through stages where I crave nothing but a substantial serving of mussels.  I don't know why, but I roll with it.  Recently I got that craving again.  Unfortunately, things never seemed to work out and I would always miss out on those mussels.

After a few weeks of this, it finally dawned on me that I should just make a big ol' pot of mussels myself.  Why was I waiting to go to a restaurant for this deliciousness?  So let's do it.

Mussels in a White Wine Sauce
slightly adapted from Ina Garten's recipe
yields 3-4 servings

  • 2 pounds cultivated mussels
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 - 1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, drained and chopped even more (4 ounces)
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup good white wine
  • dash of habanero sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • spritz of lemon juice

Clean the Mussels
1) In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 quarts of water with the flour.

2) Place the mussels in a large bowl and cover them with the water/flour mixture.

3) Soak the mussels for ~30 minutes and then drain the water away.

4) With your fingers, remove the mussel beards.

5) Scrub the mussels with a brush under running water to remove any extra dirt.

6) Throw away any mussels whose shells are not tightly shut.

Make the Mussels
1) In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.

2) Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

3) Pour in the tomatoes, turmeric, thyme, wine, habanero sauce, salt, and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

4) Add the mussels and stir well.  Cover the pot and cook the mussels for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until all the mussels are opened.  If there are unopened mussels, discard them.

5) Add a spritz of lemon juice and cover the pot.  Give the pot a shake or two to ensure the mussels won't burn on the bottom.

6) Pour the mussels into a large bowl and serve hot.

If I don't count the amount of time required to clean these mussels, this is definitely one of the quickest recipes I've ever made.  The mussels were tender and succulent.  They made for a light meal in the midst of this soup and stew season.  Make sure you also toast up a loaf of sourdough bread and use it to soak up some of the sauce.  It really is an excellent idea, if I do say so myself.

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