Sunday, January 18, 2015

Moules Marinieres

Happy 2015 to you all! I've been in quite a bit of a cooking rut recently, repeating a lot of dishes and relying on a lot of mixes. One of my resolutions for 2015 is to get out of the rut and think out of the "chicken breast and vegetable" mindset for dinners. Moules Marinieres is a good, EASY start which meets the primary goal of the Epicurean Esquire: Looks very impressive but is very simple. I am not giving you the recipe for the french fries here, but you can serve them with french fries or a crusty french bread, or even over a bed of pasta. 

The key to making moules is to make sure you get quality, fresh mussels. I have always been a bit leery of making shellfish at home (other than shrimp) because I have always been afraid that the shellfish I'm buying isn't as good quality as I would get in a restaurant. Luckily, I live near a quality seafood store, The Fisherman's Dock, which I have recently learned supplies a lot of the seafood used in the best restaurants in Jacksonville. I can see the loading dock where the trucks deliver fresh seafood every day, which is very reassuring. If you live in a coastal state, you should be able to find these types of dealers just as easily! And FYI--the seafood is NOT more expensive at these types of stores. The mussels I purchased for tonight's dinner were $3.99 a pound, which is less than chicken!

Total Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Cook Time: 15 minutes

What you will need:

2 lbs fresh mussels (try and buy them the same day you will eat them)
3 tbsp butter
1 shallot (not pictured here)
1 medium tomato
1/2 cup white wine
6 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 tbsp the stuff in the jar)
thyme and fresh parsley to taste
salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste

First you will need to rinse the mussels in cold water and scrub their shells to get rid of any grit. Most mussels that are sold nowadays are farmed and shouldn't be too dirty or gross, but giving them a quick rinse never hurt. You will also have to de-beard the mussel. Now you may ask...what is a beard? I've never noticed mussels running around with goatees like evil little hench-bivalves.

That little stringy thing hanging off the side of the mussel is its beard. It's a piece of muscle (on a mussel! Get it?!) which helps the mussel attach to a rock, but when you cook it, it becomes very tough. Some of your mussels will have retracted their beards into their shells and so you won't be able to de-beard them. However, if you notice this stringy thing hanging off the mussels when you clean them, you'll want to remove it. The way to remove them is to grip the beard between your thumb and forefinger, and pull back and away from the mussel, ripping the beard off. It can be tough, and that mussel will not want to let it go, but it's very satisfying when it pops off.

Next, dice your shallots and your tomatoes and set them aside. You want a fine dice.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and saute until they just begin to brown, and become very aromatic.

Next, add a few sprigs of thyme and some red pepper flakes. Once the mixture starts crackling, add the wine and bring back to a boil.

Once it's boiling, pour the mussels in and put the lid on the pot. After about 3 minutes, open the pot and stir the mussels to bring the ones on the bottom to the top. They should be starting to open. Replace the lid, and after another 2 minutes, put the tomatoes in, then immediately transfer to a large serving bowl with all of the liquid at the bottom of the pot.

You can add a bit of parsley if you have it on hand, but it's definitely not necessary. Serve with some delicious carb to soak up all of that juice. Then enjoy!