Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Mussels, Updated

on January 10, 2016

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I decided to look back at my recipe for mussels and update them. I’ve come to the realization it’s better all the way around to make the sauce separate, Instead of cooking the mussels in the sauce. Let me explain…

In the past, I written my recipes for mussel dishes using 2 pounds of mussels. Well it’s just never enough. Between Steve and me, we can eat a serious amount of mussels, and we always wish we had more. Then I thought, what if a friend should drop by unexpectedly! It just wouldn’t be right not to offer them a dish of these delicious little gems. My new method allows me to buy quite of bit more mussels. At $3.99 for a 2 pound bag, I found myself buying 6 bags. I couldn’t help myself!

The other issue is, preparing them in the sauce and then having to store the leftover mussels. They can get “mealy”. Remember that most recipes call for wine and leaving the mussels in the sauce over night can break them down quickly. They never taste the same or hold their integrity.

This method will take care of all these issues. Also I have a great leftover recipe that I’m going to share with you in this post. Mussel chowder.

I’ve bought 12-2 pound bags of PEI or Prince Edward Island mussels at my local seafood store. Yes, that’s a lot of mussels but, after going through all of them, you may find ones that are open and are no longer alive. Those are the ones that are open. You can do a quick test by giving them a good thump with your fingers and they don’t close, get rid of them. They are no good. Then you may find some with chipped shell from the shipping process. Get rid of them. Next, when you’re scrubbing the outside shells from sand and what not, and removing their beards. You know, those hairy beards that emerge from their shells. Those hairy membranes allow the mussels to attach themselves to stable surfaces. Look, everything that’s worth while means putting in some love. Great seafood recipes are no different.

I start by getting to the seafood shoppe as soon as it opens, about 7 am. All 6-2 pound bags are packed on ice for the ride home. Then it becomes a family project. You really don’t know how many may be damaged from the shipping or just might be dead. I take this into consideration when buying a large amount like this.  Steve has two chairs set up outside with a couple of brushes, ice, and two buckets of water for cleaning and rinsing the babies off. He doesn’t mind doing the work because he knows about the pay off. It takes the two of us about 45 minutes to clean, remove all the beards, and discard any dead ones. When all is said and done, the 12 pounds of mussels, I bought, end up being a good 10 pounds of perfection. Keep in mind, we’re talking about 95% “shell weight” here!

Next, I fill up my sink with water adding in a couple of tablespoons of flour. Using my hands I swish the flour and water around to allow the flour to combine with the water. To the water, I dump in all the cleaned mussels. Mussels act like a filter and will drink the water with the flour in it and spit it back out, along with any sand them may have inside their shells. This process only takes a couple of minutes. I then drain the water from the sink, and spray them down with clean water. I divide the mussels into three large Tupperware containers topped with ice. Place them back into the refrigerator and start on my sauce.

For the sauce, I have chopped onions, sliced fennel, and fresh garlic. In a large sauce pan, on medium heat, I’ve melted unsalted butter along with crushed red pepper flakes. Once the butter has melted, I add in the onions and  Kosher salt. I let the onions sweat for 3-5 minutes allowing them to soften before adding in the fennel. I stir together the fennel and onions together letting them cook for another 7-10 minutes. Next, I add in the garlic and a small amount of tomato paste. I keep stirring all the ingredients together giving the tomato paste a chance to melt and marry with the onions, fennel, and garlic.

At this point it’s time to add in the liquid.

First, I start with a dry white wine. I turn the heat up to med high, then  I pour the wine into the sauce pot. Next, I add in one quart each of seafood stock and unsalted chicken stock. I like to combination of flavor of the two stocks, but you can add all seafood stock if you prefer. To that, I add in 2 tablespoons of Pernod ( an anise flavor liqueur), which enhances the flavor of the seafood and fennel. Pernod can be a strong flavor so you don’t need much at all. Remember this sauce is for 10 pounds of mussels so 2 tablespoons is perfect. Finally, the special ingredient, Saffron. Saffron are little red threads that come from the Crocus flower. I would have to say this is the most expensive spice in the world. A very small amount brings a lot of flavor and brings a beautiful color to the sauce.

Once everything comes up to a boil, then I lower the heat to med low and let everything simmer for 20-30 minutes.

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Once the 30 minutes is up, place a lid on the pot, set the pot on a  back burner on warm.

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While my sauce is simmering away, this gives me around 30 minutes to start steaming my mussels. Now, because there are so many, I do have them divided into 3 containers in the frig, as I explained earlier. My plan is to cook them all off. I have an empty deep stock pot that I have heating up on med high heat with the lid on. I’ve taken the mussels out of the frig, and separated them from the ice.  I’m doing this in three batches. I know that I could probably fit all the mussels at one time into the pot, but I want to ensure that they all steam evenly.

Once the ice has been removed and the mussels are sitting in another large pot just waiting their turn, I take the first batch and dump them right into the large stock pot. I immediately pour the whole of the bottle of Chardonnay right over the top, and quickly place the lid back on. After about 3 minutes, I open the lid, give them a big stir using my trusty spider, to see how they’re coming along. You want all the mussels to have opened before removing them from the pot. I would say for each batch ( a little over 3 pounds) it takes anywhere from 5-7 minutes. The times could vary slightly.

I pull out all of  the opened mussels from the pot, and place them into the same, cleaned out,  Tupperware containers that I used earlier. I just repeat this process two more times. No need to add any more wine to the pot. The first batch of mussels also released some of their juices as well. The pot is still on the heat and the liquid is still at a bubble. Add the second batch in carefully, and place the lid on immediately again. The second two batches may cook slightly quicker.

Once all the mussels have been steamed, their ready for the ladling of the sauce. Oh yes, don’t forget to serve some crusty bread for dipping too!

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Next day, CHOWDER!

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This couldn’t be easier. You have the mussels already cooked. All you need to do is to remove them from their shells. The base for the soup is pretty much ready, just a few more ingredients need to be added to finish that off.

Ingredients For Mussel Chowder:
For this dish, I’m taking some store- bought short cuts. I’m using thawed frozen corn, and 1 package of  par-cooked, peeled, and diced potatoes. You can find these in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. I’m also adding in a diced red bell pepper.

Directions For The Mussel Chowder:
Place the leftover sauce from the mussels on the stove. Add in the diced potatoes. On med heat bring this up a slow bubble, and just turn it down and simmer, giving the potatoes time to finish cooking. At the same time I’m adding in one finely diced red bell pepper. No need to saute the pepper first. It will soften and cook while the potatoes are cooking. Let all this simmer on the stove for about 30-35 minutes.

Once the potatoes are tender, add in 1 heaping cup of thawed frozen corn. Next, add in the mussels. Stir that through and turn the heat back up to med-high heat.  In a small bowl take 1 heaping tablespoon of corn starch and 1 tablespoon or just enough water to make a thick slurry or paste. Whisk those together and pour the slurry into the soup. Bring the soup back up to a boil. You’ll see once the soup boils again, the soup will have thickened. Turn the heat off and add in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream and stir through. Garnish with some fresh flat leaf Italian parsley. You now have some of the most delicious mussel chowder you’ve ever tasted.

Prep Time: 1 hour ( this includes prepping the mussels and veggies for the sauce)
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45-50 minutes (  this includes sauce, times may vary on mussels)
Equipment: large stock pot and a spider
Yields: 4-2 pound servings of mussels in shells
Yields: 2 servings of mussel chowder
Ingredients:
10 pounds of mussels in their shells cleaned
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes ( optional)
2 cups of diced fennel
2 -1/2 cups of diced sweet onions
10 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart of seafood stock
1 quart of unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons of Pernod
1 teaspoon of Saffron threads
Italian parsley for garnish and extra flavor

Directions for making mussels:

Prep and clean all the mussels first. Chop of all the veggies for the sauce. In a large sauce pot, on med heat and on a back burner, melt the butter. Add in the crushed red pepper flakes. Next add in the veggies starting with the onions. Let the onions saute until soft but, no color on them. Next, add in the chopped fennel and tomato paste. Cook those together for another 7-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir through for another minute or so. To those ingredients add the wine and stocks. At this point add the Saffron threads. Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Once the sauce is complete, turn the burner down to warm and place a lid on the pot.

While the sauce is simmering,  I get started on steaming the mussels in the white wine. Use a large stock pot that’s been heating up on the stove. I add the mussels to the pot. Right away, pour in a whole bottle of dry white wine and place the lid on. Remember to do this in 3 batches so the mussels steam evenly. After being in the pot for about 3 minutes, using a spider, I give them a big stir. Place the lid back on and cook anywhere from 5-7 minutes. Times may vary slightly. Once all the mussels have opened, remove them from the pot, leaving the pot still at a boil, and repeat the process with the next batch. You don not need to add any more wine to the pot.

Once all the mussels have been steamed. Place them into large containers until you are ready to serve them up. Get yourself a large bowl and fill the bowl with those hot steamed mussels. Generously ladle some of that delicious and flavorful broth over the top. Sprinkle fresh leaf Italian parsley over the top and server with some crusty bread.

Note: Once the sauce for the mussels has cooled down, place in an air tight container with lid. Refrigerate along with the leftover mussels until  the next day when you’re ready to make the chowder.


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