Mussels – they seem scary. They really do! How do you know if they are good or bad? How does one clean them? What does a restaurant do to prepare them? And do they even taste good?! They fall into the “home cook unknown zone” that even otherwise seemingly cute old ladies will walk up to you while you are ordering all 7 pounds of them, DEMAND to know what they are, and then follow up with a prune face and proclamation that she would NEVER put anything like that in her mouth. Although, once when she was on a boat cruise in San Diego bay on a ship that some famous actor owned, a deck hand popped an oyster into her unwilling mouth and it was disgusting and she wouldn’t swallow it. Seriously…I can’t make these stories up. I wanted to ask her to retell it so I could video tape her but she walked off mid-sentence.
I love LOVE ordering moules frites (mussels and fries) when I’m out. I will admit it is because they seem exotic, but also because I wanted to eat enough so I could figure out how to duplicate this feast at home. I’ve bought mussels for paella before, but never as the main course. This would be a first, but it would be a dream come true. I set off and did my research (thanks Internet!) and it seemed super easy.
Catalina Offshore Products has the BEST of the best in town so it was the logical choice to source the mussels from. My friend and I BARELY made it there after at 13 mile hike that…ahem…took a little longer than I expected. (13 miles take 4-5 hours…nah…) 7 pounds of black Mexican farmed mussels, almost all perfectly cleaned and debearded, and just a few that didn’t make it alive to cooking time.
The recipe? Easy. Chop up a whole bunch of shallots, saute them in a large pot with some olive oil. When translucent, add a whole bunch of garlic and some chopped up spanish iberican ham left over from a previous party, and saute some more. Add a bottle of dry white wine for 7 lbs of mussels. While that is going, get a friend to wash the mussels off, make sure they are all alive (closed or when tapped, they close), and de-bearded. Thanks Friend! Soak them in some cold water for 20 min to get rid of any dirt or sand. When the mussels are ready to cook, toss them in the boiling wine, close the lid and steam for no longer than 5 min. Stirring occasionally. Pour the mussels and broth into large bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately with bread or french fries. Just remember, don’t eat the ones that haven’t opened!
Now for those french fries – precut frozen ones work well. Deep fry em or bake em…your preference! If you fry them though, get that oil up to temperature early on so they fries are ready when the mussels are. And crispy. Just saying.
Now, tuck into that bowl of mussels, dunk your bread in the sauce, and sip on your beer or wine. Enjoy!!