Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cook a Classic: White Wine Mussels with Sourdough Bread

What says "I-know-this-dish-could-possibly-get-you-sick-but-I'm-that-good-that-I-guarantee-you-won't-get-sick-and-you'll-be-extremely-impressed?"

(When in reality, its quite easy to pull off.)

What's classy but not over the top?

What's ballsy but avoids the blow torch?

 "Yeah... you know... the local fish monger said that the Prince Edward Island mussels were in season. I thought we'd have a little treat and I'd cook up some fresh mussels with a white wine sauce and some freshly-baked sourdough bread."  (In a dead-panned, very casual tone)

Boom. Mussels. The tried and true French classic of white wine mussels accompanied with crispy sourdough bread dish is simple, yet elegant.

She'll be impressed with your ability to add wine to something other than a wine glass, your confidence in cooking shellfish, and your forethought in going to the store the day of to buy fresh seafood.

I won't lie. You can screw this up. And the screw up scale ranges from: "Ooops I forgot to add salt" to "Here, I'll hold your hair back while you throw up the ocean..." But before you stop reading, just stick to these three DO NOT GET HER SICK rules and you'll be fine:
  1. Buy fresh mussels the day of the date! DO NOT tie off that plastic bag in the grocery store! They need oxygen to breathe. They will die!
  2. If you're hand picking the mussels at the store (or sorting through them at home), keep only the ones that are closed and unbroken. They're closed because they are scared, little mussels. Scared, closed mussels = alive mussels. Alive mussels = Success.
  3. After cooking your mussels, throw away the mussels that haven't opened. The theory is that they open up when they're exposed to the boiling liquid/steam. If they're already dead, they wouldn't have that reaction. (This has been up for debate but better to be safe than sorry)
"Do not get her sick" RECAP
  • Before cooking: Closed, scared mussels = GOOD
  • After cooking: Open, tasty mussels = GOOD 
I feel like we need some sort of mnemonic device...but anyways, on to the recipe:

    Soup to nuts this dish will take about 10 minutes. It's incredibly quick and simple. The hardest part is just remembering to follow the DO NOT GET HER SICK rules.
    • 1.5 lbs of fresh mussels
    • White wine (preferably dry, preferably room temperature)
    • Butter
    • Salt, Pepper
    • Onions, Garlic, Shallots (At least some combination of them)
    • Sourdough bread (Sliced)
    • 1 Large-ish pot for cooking the mussels

    DO THIS BEFORE SHE ARRIVES (perhaps 20 minutes beforehand). Girls love to see you cook but they don't enjoy watching you clean seafood. You'll need to clean and de-beard the mussels. Check out the steps here: http://allrecipes.com/howto/cleaning-mussels/. If you are having trouble de-bearding them with your hands, use pliers (but hopefully it shouldn't get to that).

    The Mussels
    1. Roughly chop the onions/garlic/shallots
    2. Saute 1/4 stick of butter with the chopped ingredients over medium-high heat.
    3. Saute for a minute or two until fragrant and translucent-ish (doesn't need to be an exact science)
    4. Pour in about a wine glass full of white wine (Lets be honest, guys don't have measuring cups. My rule of thumb is about 1/2"-2/3" of an inch of wine)
    5. Turn up the heat so the wine starts to boil and steam
    6. Throw in the closed mussels
    7. Cover, lightly shake the pot occasionally
    8. Mussels will be in done in 2-3 minutes. I usually do just under 3 minutes. The mussels are done when they open up, but try not to cook past 3-4 minutes, they'll get rubbery.
    9. Remove from heat
    10. Remove mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon (but KEEP THE BROTH) and place into a separate bowl
    11. Throw away the closed mussels
    12. Cover the bowl with foil (we need to keep these warm while we make the broth)

    Garlic, Onions, Shallots w/ Butter
    Mussels in the pot
    Mussels DONE

    The Broth and Bread
    Who are you kidding? Mussels are great BUT what really brings it together is that tasty, slightly buttery, white wine broth that's soaked up with crispy sourdough bread. If you've followed the recipe above, your broth should be almost there. It should be near perfect, but here is a list of steps to give it a little more love...
    Sweet Sweet Broth
    1. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and throw in some slices of sourdough bread
    2. Put the mussel pot back on the stove on High (with the remaining broth from step 10 above)
    3. Add a little bit of wine (1/4 wine glass should do it)
    4. Add another 1/4 stick of butter (don't tell her you're doing this)
    5. Add a few dashes of salt (I like pepper as well)
    6. Stir occasionally and boil down the liquid for a few minutes (tasting periodically)
    7. After a few minutes you're set
    8. Strain (or don't strain) the liquid and pour it over the mussels
    9. Remove bread from oven
    Eat and enjoy. Secretly bask in the glory that you're now an esteemed and established cook of French cuisine.

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