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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mussels a' la Charyl

Mussels a' la Charyl. What, exactly does that mean? Well, a' la means "in the style of", or, "in the manner of". As I was attempting to find the perfect recipe for preparing mussels, of course, I couldn't. So, I combined a bunch of different methods and ingredients, and came up with, I think, one of the best tasting preparations I've ever had.
 Should I steam them, (sort of) boil them, (sort of) fry them,(no) bake them?(no).  Onions or no onions? (yes. Onions). Garlic?(Yes). Tomatoes? (yes). Parsley? (yes). Chicken broth? (Yes. Really). White wine? (Absolutely).  Butter? (Yep).
These delicious bivalve mollusks are a great source of protein, easy and quick to prepare, cheap, and are downright delicious.

Let's make these bad boys.
At the supermarket, you'll see mussels in a (generally) 2 pound mesh sack. Ask to smell them. They should smell like the ocean. If they smell "fishy", they're old. Touch them. If they are slimy, they're old. Ask what date they came in, and on what date they were harvested. If the harvest date is more than 10 days, they're old. Have a steak instead.
O.K. Fresh mussels procured. These babies are alive. If your grocer puts them in a plastic sack and seals it up, they will die. No bueno. Make sure the mussels are exposed to air during transport home. This is not the time to go to the post office, dry cleaners, Taco Bell, or the nail salon. Get these mussels home immediately.
Now that they're home, put them in a bowl of ice water.

This does two things: 1. Mussels don't like tap water, so they will close. Now you can tell which ones are dead or alive. If they remain open. they're dead. Chuck 'em.
2. This helps to clean them off. These suckers can be dirty.
Mussels have a hairy sort of thing hanging out of one side of the shell. It's called the "beard". Pull it out and throw it away.
Let's get cooking.
 Put 2 Tbls butter in a deep (at least 2 inch) skillet.

Chop up 1 onion, or 3 shallots. Put them in the skillet with the butter, over medium heat.

Let them sweat for about 5 minutes. Add a good pinch of salt to the onions. It helps them to release some liquid and helps them caramelize.

At that point, throw in 3 cloves finely minced garlic (I admit it. I used minced garlic from the jar, 1 heaping Tbls).
Now, tie up some fresh parsley (or cilantro) and a few thyme sprigs with kitchen string.

Throw it in the pot.

Let it hang out for a few minutes, until you can smell the herbs.
Halve some tomatoes. I use Campari in the winter, as they are sweeter than other hot house tomatoes in the winter. I used about 10, but they are very small, just a bit larger than a cherry tomato. Pull the seeds out with your fingers. Seeds can be bitter.

Throw them in the pot with the onions, garlic, and herbs.

Let these hang out for a few minutes. Then add 1 cup dry white wine. I use "Black Box". Seriously, Black Box is wine in a box that is great for cooking, and everyday drinking. I guess I'm not a wine snob. I think I should be paid for the endorsement. Whaddya think?

Pour it in the skillet.

Add one cup chicken broth. This is optional. Although, the broth makes a lovely, savory sauce.

Bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down so the liquid is just simmering. You want all of these wonderful flavors to marry. Yes. Become one.

Add the mussels to the boiling liquid, cover with a lid, and turn heat down so the liquid simmers.

As soon as the mussels start to pop open, remove them from the cooking liquid into a warmed serving bowl. Take the lid off and pluck the open mussels out with tongs.

Remove any un-opened mussels and throw them out.
Add 1 scant tsp Sriracha (hot Chinese chili sauce) to the remaining liquid. (Optional, for those that like a little kick. Don't like heat? Leave it out).

Pour sauce over the cooked mussels, and top with fresh chopped parsley.

This should probably be served with a nice green salad. Daughter K and I ate it with a loaf of whole grain, toasted bread, dipped in the sauce. And it was marvelous. I ate salad the next day. I promise.
Bon Appetit'!


  1. Have you ever heard of adding flour to the water before you debeard them? Something about they expel the sandy water that's trapped in their shells. Looks delicious. I'll have to show this to H.

  2. B,
    Yes. Ive read of that technique. Seems that salt and corn meal may do the same thing. I would NEVER add flour to water and expect a smooth gravy. Flour and water make gumballs. Gumballs = gooey dough balls= lumps. Not Tasty! Flour must be mixed with fat, (Olive oil, butter,), first!



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About Me

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
I'm a home cook that can put some good tasting food on the table, most of the time. My family knows dinner is ready when the fire alarm goes off.