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Maine Mussels: A Coffee Table Dinner

August 13, 2013
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A few years back I got a great deal on a Staub Cocotte through Rue La La.  I was so happy with my find!  It’s such handsome cookware and typically so expensive…there was no way I could pass up the deal – I had to have one.  Of course, I never use it.

Let’s switch gears for a minute: Tonight I was at Whole Foods doing my weekly grocery shop, when I happened upon the seafood counter and spotted some shiny black mussels hanging out in an ice crate by my feet.   “Jones,” my trusted fishmonger noticed I was eyeing them and insisted on fetching me a fresh bag from the back.  I obliged.  Jones knows his seafood.

While I walked home I tried to remember where I put an old recipe I printed off the NPR website back when I lived in Chicago.  I was convinced I was going to use this recipe until I actually found it in my recipe box and realized I was missing a crucial ingredient (bacon).  Not that big of a deal… just another night winging it in our kitchen.

I have always had this theory about steamed mussels – that they can’t be all that hard to master - because so many restaurants do them well.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered mussels out, and while placing the order I go ahead and ask for extra bread because I’m making an early bet the broth is going to be dunk-worthy and amazing.   Looking back on countless orders, I’ve come to learn that a good batch almost always includes the following: 1) tons and tons of garlic and parsley, 2) a balanced combination of white wine and fish or chicken stock, and  3)  a touch of cream.

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Here’s what I threw into mine tonight:

STEAMED MUSSELS WITH FENNEL & CREAMY TOMATO BROTH

1 head garlic, coarsely chopped     |     1 handful parsley, coarsely chopped     |     1 heavy drizzle olive oil     |     2lbs fresh mussels, beards removed     |     1 soup ladle-full Rao’s Classic Marinara sauce (because Rao’s goes in everything)    |     1 tsp Better Than Bouillon chicken concentrate (or 1 bouillon cube)     |   1 c water     |      2 c white wine     |     1 fennel bulb, sliced finely     |     heavy cream – a splash or to taste

Saute the garlic, fennel and marinara sauce in the olive oil on medium heat.   Once the liquid from the marinara is cooked-off, add the white wine.  While the wine is reducing, add the bouillon and water.   Cook on high until bouillon is thoroughly dissolved and liquid has reduced by 1/3rd.  At this point, toss the cleaned mussels into the broth and cover.  Check the mussels every minute or so until the majority have opened.   When most have opened, remove with a slotted spoon and place in serving platter.   Set burner to high and add the heavy cream.  As liquid simmers, taste-test with a spoon until you have a desired thickness/consistency. Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Pour broth over mussels and serve immediately with toasted bread.

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reducing the broth

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served en cocotte

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paired with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

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Rigby – very interested in dinner tonight

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anne permalink
    August 14, 2013 7:15 am

    Marlboro NZ!

  2. August 14, 2013 9:45 am

    if i weren’t allergic to shellfish i would kiss your brothy mouth! looks delish :)

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