Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mmmmmm.. Mussels

It doesn't get better than this:
Oh - sorry - I meant this:
You have to be quick around here!!
I grew up with shellfish, and have fond memories of standing in a crowd around the BBQ hotplate after a day at the beach, scoffing cockles and pipi straight from the shells as fast as they would open!  My tastes haven't changed, but today I can get beautiful, fresh green-lipped mussels from the supermarket now, at a minute's notice, and without getting wet!!

This is my favourite lunch or dinner:

Prepare the mussels by removing beards (just pull), and give a quick scrub and rinse under cold water.  Never use mussels that smell bad, or that don't close when tapped sharply with the back of a knife.  
Don't ask me how many mussels you need: I can eat 1kg in a sitting, but I think most people go for about a dozen per person.  I don't know where they get their willpower.  I'll let you figure out where you sit on that scale, just make sure you have a big enough saucepan!

Finely chop a small onion, and a clove of garlic.  Throw in a handful of other veges at the same time to make this feel healthy if you're prone to guilt trips about meals based almost entirely on cream, butter, and meat!
In a large saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter, and add onion.  Stir until softened.
Stir through garlic and vegetables, then add just enough white wine (or chicken stock if you're stuck) to cover the base of the pan.  Throw the mussels on top, and cover.
Walk away for about 5 minutes, leaving the pan on medium heat, and let the steam work its magic.  Give the pan a bit of a shake from time to time if you have OCD, and tell yourself that this makes the mussels cook evenly, even though it doesn't really make any difference.
When they start opening, lift them out with tongs into a bowl for serving (careful, they'll be hot, and steam is nasty stuff)
Keep shaking them around (or watch patiently if you can!) until they all open.  Discard any mussels which don't open after a reasonable period of time.
Now, the good bit.  Turn off the heat, and pour in about 1/4 cup of cream.  Trust me on this one, you don't want to skip this step.
Stir to mix, then pour the sauce (and veges) over your bowl of mussels.
Serve immediately, with bread and butter, forks, a big pile of napkins, and a spare bowl for empty shells.
Butter your bread and dip it in the sauce.  It will ruin you.

DISCLAIMER: (If you're not NZ-based) These are New Zealand green-lipped mussels (you can tell by the green lip - see?)
This recipe will need adapting if you're using the small varieties of mussel found overseas (they'll cook much faster, and if my experience is worth anything, they'll be tough and taste like old boots no matter what you do with them)..  Really, I'm sorry if you can't get NZ mussels.  You should be too, you're missing out.

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