Monday, September 17, 2012

What I'm Cooking...Mussels Steamed with Fennel and Creme Fraiche

Last February I took a class at the Chopping Block called Midnight in Paris (read about that class here). I loved the class and make the recipes from the class all the time.  Well, most of the recipes. I never made the Mussels Steamed with Fennel and Creme Fraiche...until this past Saturday.

I had never made mussels before (other than in class, of course), but since I'm pushing myself to eat more seafood, I figured now is a great time to give it a try.  I stopped off at Whole Foods and picked up 2.5 pounds of mussels. I was making dinner for me and my mother -- and 2.5 pounds was a pretty filling amount for the two of us.

I used the Chopping Block recipe exactly (just scaled up slightly for the extra mussels).

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Bulb Fennel, Medium Dice (fronds reserved)
  • 1 Onion, Peeled and cut into Medium Dice
  • 2 Sprigs fresh thyme (from the garden of course), leaves picked
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1.5 Pounds Mussels, Scubbed and Debearded
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1.5 Cups Creme Fraiche (I used sour cream)
  • 1 French Baguette, Warmed
Process
  1. Heat a large heavy pot with a lid over medium heat and add the olive oil. Gently saute the fennel, onion and thyme until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook an additional minute or until aromatic.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Increase heat to medium high
  3. Add the mussels, white wine and creme fraiche. Stir well and cover the pot. 
  4. Lift the lid and stir after about 2 minutes and then cover and continue to steam until the mussels are all open, 2 to 3 more minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened (this is critical).
  5. Divide the steamed mussels (for an appetizer into 4 bowls, for an entree into two), or one large bowl.  Return the sauce to the heat and simmer until slightly thickened.  1 to 2 additional minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour the sauce over the mussels.
  7. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve with the sliced warm baguette on the side.
Whoa. A super easy meal.  I was at a loss when I first started this recipe.  The mussels need to be scrubbed and debearded. I know we talked about this in class, but I didn't remember and I sure didn't take notes.  I scurry to the internet to find the best way to start.

Several websites said to put the mussels in cool fresh water for 20 minutes so they will filter the sand/silt from them. I did that -- then continued my research.  Uh-oh. Many other websites said not to soak in fresh water as this will kill the live mussels. Dammit.  What can you do?  

I then scrubbed the mussels and removed the beard by yanking it towards the hinge of the shell -- which was the consensus on how to do it.  I also read that once you debeard the mussel it can die shortly thereafter -- so only debeard right before you intend to cook it.

My mom, who doesn't frequently try new food, had never had mussels and she loved it. She even had seconds, which absolutely NEVER happens.  The ingredients were very inexpensive -- for two of us for dinner it cost less than $10 each -- not including the wine.

Soaking the mussels
Sauteing the onions and fennel
Tossing in the mussels
Mussels open and ready for dinner
Plated and ready for my belly!
Would I make this again? ABSOLUTELY! I plan on using this as an appetizer for Supper Club that I'll be hosting later this season.

What is your favorite mussels recipe? Do you cook them at home or are mussels only a restaurant treat for you?  How did you learn how to prepare the mussels? To soak or not to soak?

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