bits and pieces

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cajun Mussels with Chorizo and Beer

Les moules! Moule-ehs, Moule-eh,
Moule-eh, Moule-eh!

Les moules! 

Les moules are something that has followed me around since undergrad. That's right. I have been followed by bivalves. But honestly - who hasn't? They're very sneaky. 

Mussels were something I tried for this first time in undergrad and to my shock - loved them. It's not really that surprising as they're pretty much peasant food - and all peasant foods are good and now trendy. However, eating a tiny little mollusk and enjoying it was a little next level for me at the time. 
There was a BYOW restaurant we used to frequent in undergrad for all things birthday and celebration related, called L'Academie. L'Academie had patient servers and mediocre continental italian food - but they did have outstanding mussels.  Mussels with curry, mussels with cognac, mussels with blue cheese, mussels with no cheese... they were good.

If you can't tell, this is the closet of a restaurant.

 L'Academie was also awesome because they'd let you pretend it was your birthday and order as many pieces of cake as you wanted. And get drunk in their broom closets. But that's another story. 

In Vancouver this past winter I was very blue and lonely. Once in awhile my lovely Man and I would go for walks up Commercial drive and we'd inevitably end up at Biere Craft. This place is AWESOME. Just a basic kind of pub with a bunch of European beers, but their food was encroyable. I dream of their citrus aioli. Seriously. It's actually that good. They had a tapas menu that was juuuust expensive enough for you to hesitate to order 2-3 things off of it, but so well constructed that you couldn't just order one. Thankfully there was one day a week when all their tapas was half price. And to tapas we would go. I would always switch it up to enjoy as many of the delicacies as I could get my paws on. BF would almost always order their cajun mussels. Tomatoes, beer, spicy sausage, shallots and seasoning. So last night when Manbearpig asked shyly for mussels, what else could I make but delicious beer-y, spicy mussels?

The other great thing about mussels, for those of you who haven't read the other mussels post - is that they're cheap, impress people, and they're really easy to make. I mean really easy. Just as easy as pasta. I promise. Go for about 1 lb per person, and buy a shameful amount of baguette to eat alongside your mussels.

1 can/bottle of beer (I used Lucky - but wheat beer works great! Avoid anything hoppy as it will make your mussels bitter)
2 lbs of mussels (the size of the bag they came in) - I recommend Pacific Fresh's :) 
1/2 cup of sliced chorizo sausage
1 cup diced tomatoes (1 - 2 decent sized tomatoes)
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 clove of garlic/tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp butter/olive oil

pinch white pepper (optional)
1 tsp red chili flakes
old bay seasoning (optional but highly recommended)

tabasco/hot sauce
the occasional splash of white wine if that happens to be something you are currently drinking

cilantro (for garnish)

other things you will need:
a big wok or pot to cook your mussels in
a big pot lid to cover your wok/pot with for a few minutes
a big bowl
an empty sink

  1. If you haven't already, dice your red onion. Throw it in your wok with the butter/olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat and begin to saut√©. 
  2. In the meantime - prep your mussels. See the other mussels recipe for more info, but in sum - dump them in the sink. While running cold water over them, shake 'em around for a few minutes. Note: they can't sit in cold water as they are salt water critters and will die. DO NOT SOAK THEM.  But under running cold tap water it's fine. The shaking them around is intended to freak them out so they spit out any dirt or sand that they've ingested. Shake shake shake. 
  3. Then turn off your water and start sorting your mussels. All the ones that are closed go into the bowl, the ones that are broken/open/pretty ambiguously open go into the garbage. You should only have a half dozen or so mussels like this per bag.
  4. Back to the onion! Add some old bay seasoning (a good sized dash), and stir around. Add a dash of white pepper or two. Throw in your chorizo. Cook for a few minutes. Add your tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes start to wilt (3-4 minutes). If you're drinking while cooking, now is a good time to add a splash of that white wine. Make sure you put it in the pot and not all over your stove like some people.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium hot and cook for a minute. Add about 3/4 of your beer. Stir. Add another pinch red pepper and allow to come to a boil for a minute or two. Taste your broth and adjust the taste accordingly (it should be delicious). Add in a few dashes of hot sauce here if you want a little more warmth. Or add more beer if you want more beer.
  6. Add your mussels! Give em a quick stir, and turn up the heat to high, pop that lid on a step back. Leave the mussels alone to cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Now is a good time to slice that baguette. Mmm. Bread. Look at all that bread. You're going to eat it all soon. It's a lot of bread. 
  7. After 3-4 minutes, remove your lid! Are your mussels open? Good! Give them a big stir so you can cover them in delicious sauce and sausage! Stiiiiiiiiir! Add a couple leaves of cilantro to garnish if you please.
  8. Ladle into bowls and eat. Dip your bread into the broth. Continue to eat. Not bad right?
Spicy, savoury cajun mussels with delicious, delicious beer. Sorry for the
crap photo. 

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