Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First Attempt

We love mussels. When we were in Belgium years ago, we were in mussel heaven. The national dish of Belgium isn't waffles or chocolates or beer, even though those deserve honorable mention - it's mussels and frîtes, a celestial combination where the tender, gamey mussels are complemented perfectly by the twice-fried potatoes dipped in lemon mayo. Oh.My.God.

For some reason, however, I had never tried cooking mussels at home.  Odd, because we love them so and because they are reputed to be quick and easy.  So, the other day when I saw mussels in the market, I decided to give them a whirl.

At home, I had some solidly stale sourdough baguette left over from an earlier meal. I thought I could make some toasts from that to soak up the juices in the bottom of a bowl of mussels, so I sliced the bread, which was so dry that it broadcast crumbs all over the counter, drizzled it with olive oil and topped it with minced shallot and garlic before popping it into a 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

My Beloved asked me what I was making for dinner. I replied, "Well, I'm not really sure," having only a vague idea of what I wanted to end up with.  He rubbed his hands together and said, "Great!  Some of your best meals come when you are playing."

While the toasts were in the oven, I sautéed on medium heat in generous butter some more of the minced alliums until they were soft, then added a splash of white wine, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a dozen mussels. I covered the pan and let it steam the mussels open. Once the mussels were opened and I was sure they were all good, I laid a single fillet of local petrale sole over the shells and replaced the lid.  As the fish cooked (which took a very few minutes) and released its essence to mingle with the wine and mussel juices, I steamed some asparagus to accompany.

To serve, I arranged two or three of the toasts from the oven in the bottom of each bowl, broke up the fish into chunks and laid it over the toast, divvied up the mussels and the asparagus, and poured the pan juices over the whole schmear. As we ate the upper layers, the juices gently softened the toasts at the bottom, all except the crusts, which remained a bit chewy. The combination of fin and shell fishes was heavenly, the sole pristine while the mussels lent an earthiness to the whole dish - if seafood can ever be described as earthy.

My Beloved dug into his bowl with gusto and pronounced it one of the best meals I have made all year. Next time, I'd either add sliced fennel to the alliums and/or some tarragon to the broth, but overall I thought it was a great first attempt.


Blogger Kailyn said...

Highly recommend the fennel. This is one of my favorite recipes.

I also love Plouf in SF for when I don't feel like cooking the mussels myself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  
Blogger Kailyn said...

Oh but closer for you would be the Hotel Mac. Just had their mussels on Sunday. Broth filled with garlic and lemon zest. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  
Blogger Greg said...

Wow looks good! There's a dish I have never made at home but should.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kailyn, I made this again with fennel and it was better but I still think I'm going to try tarragon next time.

Kailyn, oh, and thanks for the tip on the Hotel Mac!

Greg, it was surprisingly easy to make and has been a hit with My Beloved as well as guests.

Friday, October 26, 2012  

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