Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mussels in a White Wine, Garlic and Tomato-Parmesan Broth

I'm fine with just eating mussels, and full for the night, but since my parents invited some of their friends for our weekly family dinner, we had to make the meal a bit more substantial. This involved me creating a sort of hearty-bruschetta (chorizo, portabella and white button mushrooms on toasted baguette slices), an anchovy-laden Caesar salad, and the addition of some extra-large (on-sale) shrimp to the mussels. (No pictures of the salad, because besides chopping the romaine, then adding anchovies and olive oil, I didn't do anything--dressing, croutons, etc.)

The mussels used a similar broth to the sauce for the Zucchini Cappellini I made the night before--I once again used both grape and those Heirloom tomatoes, but in the broth I added about half a bottle of white wine and dried herbs (both grocery stores I went to were out of thyme and parsley--who knew that Valentine's day called for eating in?). Generally, I use fresh herbs, but dried work just as well--or perhaps better, depending on the herbs you're using. Fresh thyme is my favourite, but there is something overpowering and all-too-leafy and grassy about fresh parsley, and I found using dried parsley was much more to my liking.

If you've never made mussels before, don't worry. Mussels cook in about 5 minutes. The hardest part is the cleaning (not hard) and the prep of the ingredients for the broth (well, that's every recipe). To clean mussels, I always 'soak' them for about 20 minutes. This doesn't kill them, because you don't do it long. The reason to soak them, if you have the time, is so that they naturally filter out the sand/grit inside them. Some people say that the ones that float are alive, the ones that sink to the bottom are dead--I've also found this to be pretty untrue--a lot of the ones that sink are still alive. I always check every mussel after I've soaked them. Don't ever used cracked ones or opened ones--discard immediately!

What it means to clean mussels is to scrub them gently to remove the barnacles and also to remove what's called the "beard." I'm just going to link to a video for the removal, because I think it's easier to pick up if you see it rather than me just telling you. Regardless, always remember to pull towards the hinge of the mussel, or else you'll kill it--you want it alive until you cook it (I know, cruel--also, remember, I'm not vegan anymore, so, sorry). Also, I'm sorry about the video, but I think it's hilarious--and it's exactly what I do. (Seriously, what is with her voice?) Etc.

Mussels in a White Wine, Garlic, and Tomato-Parmesan Broth
(serves 4, by itself--8 as part of a meal;
takes about an hour to an hour and a half, including prep)

4 lbs medium-sized mussels
(Whole Foods sells them in 2 lb bags, Giant Eagle carries them loose)
2 1lb containers of grape tomatoes, halved
1 1lb container of "Gourmet Heirloom Tomatoes", quartered (optional)
(substitute cherry tomatoes if you can't find these)
10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1-2 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 c white wine
(so, I was incredibly liberal with the wine, as I tend not to measure it--just pour, and used half a bottle or so--probably you don't want to do that)
6 oz grated Parmesan
2 oz shredded Parmesan, optional
2 baguettes or 2 loaves of ciabatta, sliced and toasted
(we like ciabatta better for the purposes of slopping up the broth, plus I used baguette for the bruschetta)

*alternative ingredients I don't normally add, but that were used for the photographed version of this recipe (per dad's request to make it spicy/to add more seafood, etc):
3 tbsp hot sauce (Sriracha)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 package of whole wheat linguine
(yes, half a package was enough for 7 people, because this is not a pasta recipe)

  1. Soak the mussels in a bucket of cold water for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the 4 tbsp of olive oil to medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add all of the grape tomatoes. When the skins loosen a bit, turn to medium-low heat and add the garlic and onion. After about 5 minutes, turn to low, add the herbs and broth and simmer for 20 minutes. (Cook pasta, if using, drain, and set aside.)
  3. Once you have prepped all the ingredients (you can also do this before hand). Rinse, scrub, debeard and then rinse the mussels again. I usually just do this with the water running.
  4. Add the quartered tomatoes and the white wine, turn up to medium heat until the broth begins to boil, about 5 minutes. (This is where I added the hot sauce and red pepper flakes) Add the grated Parmesan, the mussels (and the shrimp). Cover and cook for two minutes, then uncover, and gently stir the mussels so that the mussels on the bottom are on the top and vice versa. Cook for two more minutes.
  5. Remove mussels to a serving dish and top with Parmesan and red pepper flakes (optional).
The end!

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