April 26, 2010
The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Mussels
Since I haven't had a lot of time to bake, I thought I'd share a quick and simple dinner with you. I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to be more active in preparing dinner - mostly by planning a meal based on a recipe; not planning a meal based on what ingredients we found in the fridge/freezer. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with making a meal from the fridge (M and I do this all of the time), I just need more structure.
Baking is methodical, and when you follow the list of ingredients and mix them in the proper order, you usually achieve good results. This is what boggles my mind about cooking. It seems more intuitive, especially for M, to throw some things together and end up with a pretty decent meal. I have a hard time tossing a little of this and that in the pan and end up relying on prayers that it will taste more than ok. I want to make dinner that is good or even fantastic, and to achieve this level I need recipes. If you are one of those cooks who can toss 5 ingredients into a pot and it resembles something from the French Laundry afterwards, please come over anytime you want and experiment away in my kitchen.
I picked Mussels for a few reasons: they are fairly cheap at Whole Foods, you get an extra handful after they weight them (in case they die in transit), they are easy to cook, and M really likes them (especially the Mussels from Garçon restaurant). I did a little reading and found the best method for cooking them, and found a recipe (or 6) on the interweb that I based my own recipe on. Inspired by a chef from the Food Network tv show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, I wanted to try Mussels with White Wine and Saffron Sauce. I knew we had all of the necessary ingredients on hand and all I bought was a french baguette and a bottle of cheap white wine (granted our "cheap" wine here is actually decent).
The method is simple: saute some onion in butter, add garlic, add wine and saffron, add mussels and steam, remove mussels, add cooked and drained pasta, serve garnished with parsley. I forgot to add the parsley when we ate it for dinner. oops. All together it takes less than 15 minutes to make. It would be really easy to make this for one person or a group - no one says you have to buy a significant amount of mussels at the grocery store, so go ahead and buy six or seven or ten. A quarter pound is a very decent portion of Mussels for one person, and at 6$ per pound it doesn't break the bank. Make sure your mussels are alive. I felt a little bad when I tossed them in the pan to steam since they really are living when you cook them. (The way you can tell is if you give a sharp tap on the shell - they should close - if not they are dead and probably not the best to eat.) At least they don't hiss or squeal when you cook them.
Mussels are in the middle of the list when it comes to seafood (ranking at the top are scallops and crab). Cooking them well is key. Don't overdo it. No one likes a chewy Mussel.
Mussels in White Wine Saffron Sauce
1/2 lb Mussels rinsed
3/4 inch round grab of fettucini
2 T butter
1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 C white wine (plus more later)
pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 T chopped fresh parsley
Cook pasta to al dente. Heat butter in a medium skillet. Add onion and saute over medium heat until tender, about 2 minutes. Add red pepper and garlic and continue to cook for another couple minutes. Meanwhile, add wine to a small dish and heat in the microwave. Add the saffron threads to this and let sit. Add about 1/3 C wine to the onion and garlic and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels all at once and cover. Steam for 3 minutes. Add the saffron and wine and cover. Shake the pan around and continue cooking for a total of 7-8 minutes. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon. By this time your pasta should be done, drain and add to the wine/butter/onion sauce. Stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in wide mouth bowls topped with the mussels and garnish with parsley. You could also add some lemon zest or parmigiano reggiano cheese, but I enjoyed the simplicity of this meal without lemon or cheese.