Tuesday, February 7, 2012

J'Aimes Les Moules: Wonderful Mussels

My family has decided that when the religious right takes over and runs folks like us out of the country, we will flee to Montreal.

The Man and I had both been there before but the girls had never been there before this summer and they loved it all.

"It's like a nicer New York," my husband remarked and no higher praise could come from a New Yorker.

And the food! While the Man was on a bike tour the girls and I  had breakfast in a local cafe, then went off to Atwater Market, a fabulous farmer's market/food hall. We went back to our hotel laden with bread, cheeses, fresh produce that we feasted on for lunches.

We ate at a fabulous indoor garden restaurant in Vieux Montreal that specialized in crepes. We tried Montreal bagels at what is touted as their oldest bakery in a neighborhood where we saw what I would guess were ultra Orthodox Jewish men and boys on their way to synagogue, wearing caftans and fur hats of a sort I pointed out to the girls their great-something grandfathers on my side would have probably worn back in Galician Poland long ago.
We weren't impressed by the bagels though. New York bagels for me, please!

 But I kept seeing this sign outside a cafe right down the street from our hotel. In English and French is proclaimed: Mussels!
Mussels cooked with many different sauces.
And I LOVE mussels!
I have since our wedding, 18 yrs ago at an Italian restaurant where two of my brother-in-laws piled all the leftovers on their plates and had an eating contest!

"Je veux des moules--I want mussels," I kept whining every time we went past them.

"Come on, Mom!"  My girls have not yet discovered mussels. And the Man was allergic to shellfish as a kid and is still indifferent to them for the most part, except for the one kind of shellfish I don't like, oysters!

But on our last night in Montreal, I persuaded everyone that would should try this place. It's an Italian restaurant. Montreal has TONS of Italians and tons of Italian restaurants.

We sat outdoors. The owner helped serve us. I can't remember what the girls had--think JR had lasagna--and I know they had a wonderful chocolate cake.

The Man and I had sangria. Hadn't had it since college and had forgotten that it's one kind of alcoholic beverage that I DO like, probably because the fruit kills most of the alcohol flavor that I'm too acutely aware of to enjoy booze in general.
 Note: SC is only partly pictured here. Sure she will never see this blog, but I am being kind and NOT showing the picture of her trying the sangria and making a face that has made this a family joke!

And I had mussels. And they were wonderful!

Mussels are a snap to make at home--minimal cleaning is required on the farmed kind, they are not too expensive and they require next to no preparation. So occasionally I buy a 2 lb net of them in the supermarket and make them for myself.  They will keep well in the fridge for several days--just make sure to keep them cold and check them over well before cooking them!

This recipe is based on a recipe in "Jane Brody's Good Seafood Book", though I made it even simpler by using frozen chopped onions and jarred garlic. I also used less oil because the moisture from the frozen onions is enough to saute them--the oil just adds extra flavor.The whole thing probably took less than 10 minutes to make.

I ate some of the mussels with rice and some with corkscrew pasta--rotini.  This sat in the fridge for a day or two and the juices made the pasta taste wonderful!

Wonderful Mussels  (based on "Mussels To Remember" in Jane Brody's Good Seafood Book)
2 pounds of mussels
3/4 cup frozen chopped onion
4 tsp bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
red pepper flakes (to taste)

Check the mussels over before using them. They should all be tightly closed. If any are open, try gently pushing the edges together. If they stay closed, they're fine. If they remain open, they are dead--throw them away.

Rinse the mussels under cold water. If any have beards, gently pull them away.

Spray a large pot (4 qt dutch oven is good) with cooking spray.
Add the onions and begin to cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently.
As the onions soften and begin to release their water, stir in the garlic.
Cook for several minutes until the onions begin to become opaque.
Add the red pepper and the wine and bring everything to a boil.
When the liquid is boiling, add the mussels quickly. Stir things around well and cover the pot.
Reduce the heat a little and steam for 5 minutes, then allow the pot to stand for one minute more w/the heat off.
Remove the mussels from the pot. Discard any that have not opened.
Boil down the liquids for a few minutes, then serve mussels either in or out of the shell.

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