Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Moules Marinere or Steamed Mussels

The kids and David were off for Martin Luther King holiday, so we decided to prepare a French bistro-style lunch.  The menu included steamed mussels that Dylan, in particular has been begging us to prepare ever since he experienced steamed Prince Edward Island mussels for the first time at one of our favorite restaurants in Oak Cliff, Bolsa.  In addition to the steamed mussels we prepared a cheesy French onion soup and of course you've got to have some crusty, French bread to soak up all the flavorful juices from the mussels and the satisfying soup....YUM!!

Quantity note: for the average-sized mussels commercially sold, you can figure that 1 quart equals 1-1/2 pounds equals 25 mussels in the shell equals 1 cup mussel meat.

Preparing mussels for cooking:

Mussels are perishable and you should plan to cook them as soon as possible after buying them.  First, wash the mussels.  Then, with a short, stout knife, scrape off any seaweed, barnacles and pull off their wispy beards.  Discard any mussels that do not quickly close when tapped, any mussels with cracked or broken shells, any that feel unduly light (they may be empty), or any that feel unusually heavy (they may be full of sand).

Soak the mussels in a bowl of cold water, swishing and knocking them around with your hands for a few seconds, and let them sit for 5 minutes.  Lift them out, and if there is any sand at the bottom of the bowl, rinse out and repeat the process, doing so several times if need be.  Since there's nothing worse than sandy mussels, there's also a final step you can take:  Put 4 or 5 TBSP of flour in the bottom of a bowl, blend it with cold water, than fill the bowl with 4 quarts or so of cold water, add the mussels, swish about again, and let them sit for 15 - 20 minutes - the theory being that they eat the flour and while doing so disgorge the rest of their sand.  I'm sorry to report that despite all you can do, you will once in a while run into a batch of mussels that are gritty.  

Mussels should be served as soon as they are cooked;  they will toughen and dry out if you attempt to keep them warm.  However, this recipe is a starting point for many other delicious preparations.

5 - 6 lbs. mussels
3 - 4 TBSP butter
1 cup onion, minced
3 - 4 TBSP shallots, minced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
A large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
About 2 cups dry white wine or dry French vermouth

Prepare the mussels as described above.  A few minutes before serving time, melt the butter in a large soup pot with lid; stir in the onion, shallots and garlic and cook slowly for 4 or 5 minutes, until wilted.  Then add the parsley and the mussels; cover pot and shake to mix mussels with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour in the wine or vermouth and shake again.  Turn heat to high, cover pot tightly and let steam for 3 to 4 minutes (do not shake again or you may toss sand back into the mussels), until the mussels are open.  As soon as they open they are done.

Dip the mussels, shells and all, into a big serving bowl or into individual soup bowls.  Let liquid settle for a minute in the pot, then pour liquid and spoon onion and parsley, over mussels, being careful not to add any sand that may have settled in the bottom of the pot.

To eat mussels:

The best method is to use a tiny fork, plucking the mussels out of their shells.  I leave a big bowl to use to discard all of the shells.  

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