celebratory mussels

This was my celebratory dinner. I handed in that whopper of a paper, and now all that stands between me and my masters degree is a pesky oral defense. Cheers!

For this particular celebration, I wanted mussels. I wanted to taste summer. I wanted my mussels steeped with lots of great flavours -- fennel, tomato, chorizo sausage, and white wine. And I wanted a warm baguette for dipping. I was not disappointed.

Lots of folks are shy about making mussels. To those folks I say honestly, it's worth any extra hassle. Sure, another meal of chicken breasts doesn't require tossing the cracked or unopened ones, but chicken won't reward you with all that flavour.

When you buy raw mussels, one thing to realize is that they are alive. Don't close them up in a plastic bag -- let them breathe. They should smell of yummy salty ocean and nothing else. And, plan on cooking them within 24 hours. (Both Ina and Martha have a trick about letting mussels sit in warm water with either flour or cornmeal to let the sand out, but usually markets will have already purged the mussels of sand, so this may not be necessary.)

To prepare, run each shell under cold water, scrubbing the outside and tearing off any remaining "beard." In cold water, they should all close up. If any are cracked -- throw those away. If any stay open, try tapping it against the side of the sink. If it doesn't close up, it's dead and needs to be thrown out as well. Cover the mussels with cold water and keep chilled in the fridge until ready to use.

steamed mussels with chorizo and fennel
serves 4 if main course, or more if appetizer

1 lb bag of fresh mussels
1-2 chorizo sausage links, decased
2-3 tbs butter
1 fennel bulb, sliced fine
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
course salt and fresh black pepper
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juices
3/4 C white wine
2/3 C italian parsley, roughly chopped
1 italian or sourdough baguette

Into a big saucepan (one with a lid!), decase the sausage. Cook, breaking up with wooden spoon, until brown and cooked through (about 5-7 mins). Remove cooked sausage and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place bread in oven to warm -- about 300 degrees.

In same saucepan, with the oils from the sausage, melt butter. Add fennel and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until almost tender, about 7 mins. Add red pepper and sauté a couple minutes more. Add tomatoes and juices. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple minutes. Stir in wine and parsley and bring to another boil.

Add mussels on top of the mixture and cover. Steam about 5 minutes. When most of the mussels have opened, uncover and stir in chorizo. Toss out any mussels that have remained closed. Ladle into bowls and serve with warm bread.

they're empty -- I'm full

1 comment:

Glenda said...

yay! Tippy's back! and double yay that your paper is done! I hope you take a few more days that would seem reasonable before thinking about that defense - trust me, its really not that bad. I think Mike remembers more about my defence day than I do! :)

your mussels sound amazing - I think Mike may be getting mussel appys at his birthday dinner next week! :)