Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recipe: Steamed Mussels with Herbs in a White Wine Broth

I have been craving mussels for the longest time.  I actually had them twice in the last several weeks but neither meal satisfied me.  The first time was at a very popular restaurant in New Orleans, they were not properly prepared with a rather bland broth- I had high expectations so very very disappointing.  The second time was  better, but still seriously lacking in flavor.  So a couple of weeks ago, having not much on my agenda I set out to make them for myself.  Which in the end isn't really so surprising- sometimes with my tendencies towards perfection I have to do things for myself in order to achieve my desired result. 

Since my recent change in occupational status,  I have been taking lessons on relaxing and being idle- two new teachers, both very amusing and quite entertaining.  This is all taking place about five minutes from home in a coffee shop- the one I used to go to before work every morning and on my way home from work in the afternoon. Rather ironic- now I go there for internet access since on day 20 after the hurricane I still did not have cable or internet! (thankfully I do now).  But that's only my excuse for being there half the day, not that anyone has asked.  It's hard for me to believe that I do this, (just sit around and chat) much less admit it publicly, but it's humorous nonetheless.  I will say though, that I have in two week's time changed my attitude and am actually embracing doing nothing much at all, (I have excellent teachers).  Relaxing is an art form for these two.  It's a good thing that neither knows much about my blog or most importantly how to get here.  (they would not think this was too idle!)  In reality though, I have worked for the last 24 years, for the last 15 at the restaurant so this last month has given me the opportunity to regroup and figure things out.  The interesting thing is, I already had it figured out.  Working with food isn't out of my system just yet, all I have to do now is wait until I can make it happen.  Slowly and surely.

Being in the midst of starting a new venture after not having had a job for the last 4 weeks has been a month of many many firsts.  Some good- some not so good, some professional some personal, but as my friend O says - I'm like a cat... always landing on my feet.  It's going to take much more than the hell storm I've been through to put me in a negative place. (If ever!) Life anew- I will forever be an optimist.  Which is why I knew that eventually I would get the mussels and they would taste exactly as I was craving them.  

So the mussels... 

I love the little black ones and have done a little research.  A friend asked me the other day which type I liked best and it occurred to me I really didn't know.  But of course there is an answer for that, being as particular as I am, I may not know the name, but I do know what I like.  Turns out they are called Blue mussels- not black.  They are found on the Northern Atlantic coast of North America and in Europe and I find I like them better than the California mussels, they are a little smaller and all around tastier.  Blue mussels are most commonly used in French and Italian cuisines.

I prepared them in a light wine broth, with chopped Italian parsley and fresh Thyme.  I reduced the broth after they steamed, added a little butter and extra herbs.  They were perfect- at least for me, I enjoyed them immensely.

Ok, one last thing- when I say white wine, I mean good white wine.  If you won't drink it, please don't cook with it.  The end product is only a sum of it's parts, and as I found out today mussels are rather inexpensive (under $5 lb.).  So splurge on good wine and just drink the rest, that should not be a difficult task. 
2 lb.'s of mussels will serve four people as a starter or two as an entree. 

Steamed Mussels in White Wine

2 lb.s Blue Mussels
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves
2 small shallots, minced
a few sprigs fresh Thyme
about 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
4 or 5 large fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Smash the garlic with the side of a large knife and cut it into a paste. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a large pot with a lid, (I used a paella pan ).  Saute shallots until almost translucent, then add garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken broth, wine and fresh thyme sprigs and bring to a boil.

2. Add washed mussels, cover and steam for 6 minutes or until mussels have opened.  Remove mussels from pan and set aside.  Bring broth back to a boil and reduce for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add parsley, basil, tomatoes and butter and cook until butter melts. 

3. Return mussels to the pan, stir and serve with hot French bread.

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