As a kid I was never a seafood person. My family used to vacation on Cape Cod, and I remember there was always one night dedicated to eating as much seafood as humanly possible. This was the night that I usually stomped my feet on the ground, cried and asked if we could go to McDonalds instead. For Dave on the other hand, seafood was one of the 5 food groups. His mom grew up in Rhode Island, with the ocean literally in her back yard, and I knew that if I was going to have any hopes of lasting in his family, I was going to have to suck it up and start expanding my seafood horizons.
My first experience with steamers at Dave’s Nana’s 80th birthday party was like a scene out of National Geographic – I was a tourist in a foreign country where everyone was practicing this ritual of taking a ball of slime out of a shell, pulling the icky outer skin off it, dipping it in water to get the dirt off of it, and then slathering melted butter all over it. There were pails apon pails of them on every table, with accompanying bowls of ‘bath’ water and melted butter, and the shells may as well have been flying over people’s heads they were eating them so fast and enthusiastically. It was at this moment that I realized that stomping my feet on the ground and asking for Chicken McNuggets was not age appropriate – so I did it – I ate a steamer. And another. And another. And ya know, it wasn’t all bad!
There’s this restaurant that we love called The Local. It’s nothing fancy – no frills – a simple menu, with a really great beer selection. All glasses of wine are $7 and the size of them would make your eyes bug out of your head. Watching the bartender as he pours, you keep thinking (glug – glug) – wait, he’s STILL pouring? (glug -glug) as it gets closer and closer to the top of the glass. Love that noise. One of our favorite ‘small plates’ of theirs is their Mussels – you can get them in either an Ale/Mustard/Cream broth (delish) or a Pinot Grigio and Garlic Butter broth (MORE delish). Last time we got them there, after I was done eating the mussels and soaking up as much of the left over broth as possible, we sat and tried to analyze how they were made, promising that one night we’d try to recreate them ourselves. And when we saw Mussels at Market Basket for $3.99, voila!
Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Butter
*Adapted from Cooking Melangery
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 lb. mussels, well scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup dry white wine
3-5 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1) Cleaning the mussels: To clean mussels, scrub the shells well under running water. The beard, a fibrous tuft near the hinge, should not be removed until just before cooking. Grasp it close to the shell and pull on it with a firm tug. Today, with so many farm-raised mussels in the market, beards are less fully formed and are easier to remove. Once the mussels have been thoroughly cleaned, remove and discard any shells that are open or broken and that do not close when tapped – this is the most time consuming part. The rest is fast and easy, so be patient!
2) Cook the onion, garlic and the butter on medium flame until the onions are soft.
3) Turn up the flame to high and add the mussels.
4) Pour in the white wine, bay leaf, parsley, ground pepper and salt and stir for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and cook for 5 minutes until all the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that did not open.
5) Serve the mussels in large bowl with the broth and baguette slices for dipping.
And, whatever wine is left over (glug, glug) pour yourself a tall glass 🙂 That’s an order!