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Sunday, January 02, 2011

'tis the season to resolve to not break resolutions

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It's day two of 2011 and so far I'm doing pretty well.

Not that my resolutions are anything special or different, or, really, even distinguishable from years past (eat less, exercise more, be less lazy, etc.).

But I'm going to try. And most importantly to you (or at least, I'm guessing this is likely to be the resolution with the most significant impact on YOUR life...given that you're reading this...) is that I'm going to make a concerted effort to blog more.

You wouldn't believe the pile of photos I have in archives, or the number of times I've set out to write something, only to be distracted and not finish it.

So here it is, 11:53 pm on January 2nd, and I'm going to post something this year, dammit. ;)

It will be no shock to any of you that the January recipes I post are likely to be healthy and full of veggies and all those good things. I'm going to start tonight with a couple of recipes I've made in the last few days. Sorry, no photos this time, but if you can hold on until next time....there will be photos. I swear. I'm working on a work/life balance issue that I hope to have rectified in the next few weeks, and at that point, I expect that two things will happen..... 1) I will spend 67% less time in transit (or, two fewer hours per day) and 2) I will spend significantly MORE time with my family, cooking, blogging...and maybe even housework...

Okay, maybe not that last one.

But whatever. You're here for the food, so here it is.

Steamed Mussels in White Wine Lemon Sauce

This is a great recipe. Mussels are pretty much just awesome. I love them. Not only are they absolutely yummy, but they are good for you, and compared to most seafood, they are pretty affordable (less than $3/lb here).

A few tips for preparing mussels, if you've never done it before (they are totally foolproof!!!): First, when you bring them home, they are alive. They NEED to be alive. When you rinse them off (not necessary, but a good opportunity for picking through), take out all of the mussels with broken shells, or the mussels that don't close when you run them under cold water (QUICK TIP: If the mussel doesn't close immediately after running it under water, set it on the counter for a minute or two while you continue to check the other mussels....if it STILL doesn't close, toss it). When in doubt, throw it out. Second, if you have purchased wild mussels (unlikely), they will have what's known as a "beard" - it is a mass of gross looking brown fibres. The mussels uses these to cling and attach itself to rocks. Pull it out - just give it a good yank, or clench it with a tea towel and pull if you are squeamish.

I think that of my 5 lb of mussels, maybe 3 individuals sported beards.

Last, after you have cooked the mussels, DO NOT eat any that have not opened. Again, when in doubt throw it out. They are cheap.

WIth all that aside, the prep of mussels is as easy as can be....

5 lb mussels
1 T olive oil
3 chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
1.5 cups white wine (give or take)
juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3T)
black pepper
chopped fresh parsley

1. In a 6 L pot (basically, a pasta pot) set on medium heat, heat the olive oil, and saute the shallots and garlic together until translucent.

2. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring it to a boil.

3. Toss in the mussels. Throw on a lid. Wait 5-6 minutes and open. If the mussels are all open, then you're done. If they're not, pop the lid back on and wait another couple of minutes.

4. Dump the mussels in a pretty serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley and make sure you put another big bowl on the table for shells. Enjoy!

YIELD: a bit difficult to quantify. I served this to 8 people as part of a meal. I would say this would serve 4 as a main or as a large appetizer. You can eat a LOT of mussels. This recipe is very very easily scaled up or down. The cooking time for the mussels will be about the same, just add less wine, lemon, garlic and shallot. Or don't... ;)
I served this with seared scallops (added a vanilla pod to my white wine pan sauce to keep things interesting) and a big tray of fresh dipping veggies.

If you love mussels and are interested in something a little more refined, try out this fennel mussel bisque from epicurious. I made it last month and for the seafood lover, it is AMAZING.

A couple of other recipes you need to try (I'm not going to repost them as I have no photos to add):

1) Garlicky Doused Shrimp - this is like a shrimp salad recipe, served as an appetizer. The shrimp is amazingly flavourful. This ended up being the highlight of my packed New Year's Eve buffet. Just make sure you don't overcook them before you make the salad. To make a meal, you could probably just put the shrimp salad over some nice greens, as the marinade would make a delicious vinaigrette.

2) Braised pork with fennel and orange - divine recipe that I made in the crockpot. Very unusual flavours, but they work amazingly with each other. YUM. You should make it.

Dinner tomorrow night is going to be relatively simple - Mark Bittman's homemade marinara sauce (with added tomato paste and white wine) served over olivieri nutri-wise tortelloni. I don't think that's really blog-worthy (although everyone should try throwing together a simple marinara sauce) no post tomorrow.

BUT, on Tuesday, I plan to make a roasted cauliflower and garlic soup, and if that turns out, I should be back here to share it.....

Thanks for reading - best wishes for 2011!!!!!!

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