Sunday, August 11, 2013

Classic Mussels

Today was my last day of summer! And a momentous summer it was--a perfect wedding, a spectacular honeymoon, our tadpoles turned into frogs, our garden produced actual food. Nothing could have been better. But all good things must come to an end, and someone has to get our founding class to a 23 or higher ACT. And someone has to act like a bitch until people take their reading homework seriously. And someone needs to yell about lay vs. lie. And that someone can really be no one but me. So in the morning, I have to drive on the highway again, back to work.  
So to celebrate the final summer dinner, I made mussels. I made them my favorite way--super simply, the classic, most basic way--fennel, garlic, butter, wine, a few fresh herbs tossed in at the very end. 
Mussels are incredibly delicious, and incredibly easy to make at home. They seem fancy, but don't be fooled--this is easier than searing chicken breasts. A big bowl of mussels, some buttery toast, cold white wine--a perfectly elegant summer dinner, made even better if you have somewhere outside to sit while you eat. 
Ingredients! Mussels, butter, fennel, wine, shallots, parsley, garlic. 
1 bag of mussels (sold at the butcher counter of the grocery store, even in Denver)
1 bulb of fennel
1 large (or 2 small) shallot, diced
4 fat (or 6 less fat) cloves of garlic, minced
half a bottle of white wine (any kind is fine)
a handful of parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

What to do: 
Start by cutting the mussels out of their mesh bag. Place them in a bowl and fill the bowl with cold tap water. Leave them for half and hour. This soaking in fresh water will cause them to expel any sand that they may have in their shells. (note--I read mussel recipes that mention "debearding". I don't know what this really means, as no mussel I've cooked has a noticeable beard. I've always ignored this and been fine, so you should too)
Mussels before cooking.
Saute the fennel, shallot, and garlic in the butter for about 6 minutes. The fennel and shallot should be translucent.
Sauteing the garlic, shallot, and fennel. I also grilled some zucchini and patty pan squash from the garden as a side.   
Add the wine and bring to a boil. Throw in a pinch of salt and pepper. Allow to boil for about 2 minutes, so the flavors of the fennel, shallot, and garlic infuse the wine and the alcohol edge mellows out.
Drain the mussels in a colander. Add them to the bubbling wine mix. Cover the pot but leave the heat all the way up. Leave for five minutes.
They are done!
Open the pot and stir the mussels. Are they all open? If so, they're done! If not, cover again and cook more.
When they're open, stir in the chopped parsley and stir the mussels around to soak them all in the sauce.
Serve in bowls, with buttery toasted bread.
Use the mussel shell as a spoon, scooping up sauce with each bite.
I baked some bread to go with the mussels. I ended up buttering and grilling fat slices--delicious. 

This was delicious. We ate on the deck, shooing away flies and poorly-behaved dogs. 
It was the perfect end to the best possible summer. 

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