Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Pile of Mussels

One of my favorite things to get when eating out is mussels. It’s also one of the few things I love that my husband really enjoys too. So, when we go out together, if mussels are offered, we almost always order them. The best I’ve ever had were from Wildwood here in Portland, many years back – mussels in a lemongrass broth. They were divine!

I’m not sure why I never made mussels myself. I think I had this idea they were too complicated. But, flipping through a magazine recently, I saw a recipe for mussels steamed in saffron broth, and as I read the recipe, I realized it was not at all complicated. In fact, it looked really simple. Why had I never realized this before??

There was one strange thing about this recipe. It called for four pounds of mussels to serve four people. Since this was my first attempt, I was only going to feed the two of us, so I bought the smallest bag of mussels I could get at Costco – just over two pounds. Later, when I was rinsing and sorting them, I realized what a ridiculous amount of mussels this was. We had way too many for just two people – way too many!

I went ahead and steamed them all anyway. (What else was I going to do with them?) At this point, I was still pretty nervous that something was going to go terribly wrong – that I’d screw it up and they’d taste awful or make us sick or something – so, I was thrilled when after eight minutes, most of the shells had popped open and the steam smelled delicious.

We sat down at the dinner table with a mountain of mussels. (I really wish I'd thought to take a picture! Will someone please nag me until I start remembering to take pictures of the food I make!) I can’t say we didn’t put a dent in the giant pile, but it was only a dent.

We gave them a rating of "good" – just good. I wouldn’t repeat this particular recipe, but for my first attempt at mussels, I was pretty pleased.

We made a second meal of them the following night. I removed the leftovers from their shells and gently reheated them in a broth of garlic, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon juice, fresh parsley, and leftover saffron broth. I tossed it all together with some fettuccine and somehow, this meal was better than the first.

Again, we had leftovers, but I was worried about keeping the mussels for another day, so sadly, we tossed them in the trash this time.

I’ve already found a couple new recipes I want to try – one with lemongrass and chiles and another with shallots and tarragon. I can hardly wait to get going – one pound at a time, this time – and maybe when I find that perfect recipe, I’ll buy the two-plus pound bag again and throw a party. When that happens, I’ll be sure to take a picture and tell you all about it.

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