Steamed mussels with homemade fries

Flex some fun with mussels

Originally appeared in the July 21, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

Sometimes what hits the spot is neither a full meal nor a nibble, but something in between.

Steamed mussels are fun because they’re communal.  Imagine this:  a casual evening with friends, maybe on the weekend—maybe lounging outside (although with the current heatwave, perhaps air-conditioning is a more comfortable option)—a table loaded with finger foods, a variety of wines and beverages.  Music.  People laughing, relaxing, eating.  Read the rest here:Several local markets stock fresh mussels, but save yourself a dead-end investigation by calling ahead, ask about availability and perishability.  Scrutinize the mussels.  If the shells are slightly open, tap the top with a knife; if it snaps shut, you’re good to go; but if the shell remains open, pitch it in the garbage.  Use a coarse brush to scrub the shells under cold running water.  Immediately before cooking, use your fingers (or needle-nose pliers) to yank away the small cluster of threads running along the hinge (this is called “debearding”).  Last tip:  after eating one, use the shells as impromptu tongs on the remaining mussels.

Steamed mussels are an impressive culinary contribution to any dinner party, or an ideal way to recreate a bistro vibe at home.

Steamed mussels with homemade fries

Serve 4

  • 3 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2-3 sprigs Italian parsley
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 Idaho potatoes
  • As needed for frying, peanut oil

1.  For fries: peel potatoes, cut into long batons.  Soak in cold water to prevent oxidization; leave in water for at least an hour before rinsing under cold water (to remove starch).  In a high-sided pot, heat peanut oil to around 275°F.  Blanch the potatoes for several minutes until they become translucent; remove and scatter on a baking sheet; rest for 15 minutes.  Increase oil’s heat to 375°F.; drop fries back in and fry until crisp.  Drain on paper towel.  Place in a large bowl and toss with table salt.

2.  Mussels:  heat 2 ounces butter in large pot; sauté shallots.  Add wine, bringing to a boil.  Maintain heat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour in mussels in a place lid on pot.  Cook for roughly 10 minutes or until mussels have all opened.  Add parsley, replace lid and shake the pot.  Add remaining 2 ounces of butter, shake pot again, and serve mussels immediately with broth.

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