bits and pieces

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Updated!: Yummy Mussels, Swimming in Perfection x2 - Gorgonzola Mussels, and Brandy and Curried Maple Mussels

I originally posted this back in September when I was all alone and desolately cooking in Alberta. That sounds like the world's worst cooking show 'Desolately Cooking in Alberta'. Catchy.

I made mussels again last night for the first time in forever. I used to cook them a lot more in Montreal due to the proximity of mussel loving friends and my darling fish market down the block. This here is a recipe for Gorgonzola Mussels, however, I have also included last night's recipe which was for Brandy and Maple Mussels.

Mussles are a hate-them-or-love-them type of thing. Clearly I happen to love them. If you also like mussels then we can be friends. Les moules are a great meal to cook if you have friends/guests over because they're not a food people generally make at home, they're easy-peasy to cook, and they tend to impress your guests. Back in the Montreal of yesteryear, we had a mussel-madness night during which I believe I served four kinds of mussels with countless baguettes.

Below I've included MY favourite mussel recipe below (gorgonzola) as well as the most recent (brandy + maple) but like most great foods, mussels have lots of room for improvisation. Don't like blue cheese? Throw in some leeks + more white wine instead! Not a fan of cream sauces? Cook them up in a wine-y marinara sauce or stew them in your fav IPA.

ingredients for gorgonzola mussel maddness:
MUSSELS. How many you ask? How hungry are you? The little old man who ran our local fish mart in Montreal consistently tried to convince me that you needed one bag/person. I find this is an appropriate amount for very hungry man-creatures, but personally I can eat about half a bag of mussels. Your grocery store should sell fresh mussels in the seafood section. Avoid ones that smell fishy or are all broken and sad looking. They should smell like the ocean but not like stinky gross fish. UPDATE: last night 1 kg of mussels was MORE than enough for one hungry boy and one graze-y lady.
about 8 oz/1 cup of gorgonzola. Sometimes I can't get gorgonzola so I use roquefort. It's another good blue cheese but its a little bit sharper and a little bit tangier. Gorgonzola tends to be softer and sweeter. As both are cheeses, both are clearly delicious
about 1 cup of white wine
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 tbsp butter/olive oil
1 cup of cream or half and half
salt and pepper
other things you'll need:
an empty sink to clean your mussels in.
a big pot/wok/deep frying pan to cook your mussels in (with lids or something that can serve as a lid!)
fresh and yummy baguettes to dip up all your mussel sauce.
  1. First and foremost, prep your mussels. They'll normally come in a bag/tray/bag-tray-combo. You want to keep them refrigerated until you're ready to use them. Stored properly in your fridge, mussels will keep for a day or two, but you really don't want to be using old mussels so I highly suggest buying them the day of.
  2. To prep your mussels you want to dump them (gently) into your empty sink. First of all throw away all of the cracked/broken mussels. They are dead and eating them will make you sick. Next you want to run COLD water and literally shake your mussels around under the cold water for a few minutes. You want to rinse and shake them to get rid of any dirt or sand that your mussels may have 'eaten'. They should spit it out under this shakey-rinsey duress.
  3. Next you want to get rid of your dead mussels. They are hiding amongst the living like vampires, or sneaky zombies. You want to throw out these mussels because as we have learned, eating them will make you sick. The dead ones will remain open. If you're not sure if they're open or closed, give 'em a whack on the side of the sink; if they close, they're alive, if they stay open, they're dead so chuck them in the garbage. (note: mussels make your garbage smell. sorry)
  4. Now that you only have good mussels, give them a quick look. If any of them have 'hair' (little bits of seaweedy stuff) on them, give them a little scrub. No one wants to eat mussel hair. Ready? Good. That was the hardest part.
  5. Now that your mussels are ready to cook, you can have them on the table in under 15 minutes. Melt your butter/olive oil in whatever wok/pot you're using over medium/medium high heat. Toss in the shallot + garlic and cook until aromatic and translucent.
  6. Throw in your mussels in and stir them around to get them covered in your shallot-onion butter.
  7. Pour your wine in. How much wine you use really depends on how wine-y you like your food and what you want your wine-cream ration to be like. Personally, I like to have about a half and half ratio, so I'll throw in enough wine to have the mussels sitting in a good amount of liquid. Cover the pot, and turn your heat up to medium high/high. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Check your mussels. Are they opened? Good, this means you killed them! Sorry. I promise they'll be tasty. Turn down your heat a bit (the wine should be simmering), and pour in some cream and stir them around. You want your seafood to be coated and drowning in this heavenly blend of wine and cream.
  9. Slowly crumble in your gorgonzola/roquefort. You want to melt it a little bit, but you still want to have nice chunks of blue cheese in your sauce. Stir it around to make sure all your poor little mussels get a nice bit of cheese.
  10. Scoop your mussels into serving bowls and make sure everyone has enough baguette to dip. You never realize how much bread people can eat until you have mussels. I had six people over for mussel-fest and we went through 5 baguettes. It's really terrible.
Once you get a feel for cooking mussels, which really isn't hard to do (the hardest part is the prep), experiment with your own sauces.. Some good ones include: garlic and basil marinara mussels;  good ol' white wine and leeks; and a stout stock and beer mussel mix. Mussels are tasty but they're not too assertive as a food, they'll carry whatever flavours you cook them in as long as they're delicious. Below is the recipe for brandy and curried maple mussels. This is based off of the cognac and maple mussels at L'Academie in Montreal, but being a poor recently graduated graduate student, buying a 50$ bottle of cognac and cooking with it was sadly out of the question. Luckily dirt cheap brandy is a completely acceptable substitute. Onwards plebians!

a dirty and cheap bottle of brandy (don't worry, you won't use all of it)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup white wine
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp curry powder (the more kick the better)
1 pinch of garlic powder
1 pinch of onion powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
fresh basil for garnish (if you have it)

  1. prep your mussels as per above.
  2. In your frying pan/wok/pot melt your butter over medium heat, and add your shallot. Cook until translucent and add 2 tbsp maple syrup. Allow to caramelize and brown your shallot. Add another tbsp of maple syrup and half of the black pepper.
  3. Add a good sized splash of the brandy to deglaze your pan. Scrape the pan to allow all the caramelized bits to combine with the brandy and syrup. Allow to cook down for a minute or so.
  4. Add another tbsp maple syrup and another big splash of brandy. Add spices, and stir. Taste - more heat? More curry? More pepper? The syrup should be sweet, but have a depth of flavour and warmth to it. Not a spicy kick in the mouth, but a slow heat that warms your mouth up nicely.
  5. Add your mussels and stir around to coat in your brandy-maple-curry-warm mixture. Add white wine, cover, and cook on high for 2-4 minutes.
  6. Check mussels. Are they open? Oui? Drizzle your cream over the mussels, stirring to combine cream + wine-syrup, and to coat your mussels in the delectable bath of yum you have built for them. Cook for an additional minute or so, stirring and pouring liquid over the mussels. Garnish with fresh basil, and serve.

1 comment: