Thursday, March 29, 2012

Feeding Friendship: Mussels Steamed in Beer

Sometimes when the feeding friendship ingredient is revealed, I spend a day or two thinking about what I want to make and researching options on the internet.  But more often than not, an idea comes to me right away and I just go with it, for better or for worse.  My local grocery store has been hawking their mussels for the past several weeks and each week I've stopped, admired, and then walked away.  This week, they came home with me.

This recipe is a riff on Moules √† la Marini√®re, a classically French dish of mussels steamed in white wine with butter and shallots. I've substituted a wheat beer for the wine - I love the unfiltered wheat from Kansas City's Boulevard Brewery which is getting much broader distribution than it was a few years ago.  Mussels, like most shellfish, will get chewy when overcooked so I start pulling them as soon as they open, usually within three minutes on the heat.  Overcooked mussels are like checking on erasers.  So keep an eye on them and remove each as it is perfectly cooked.

Your mussels come with their own sauce which they will let loose into the pan to mingle with the beer you use to coax them open.  This is a pretty tasty mixture, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Once all the mussels were out of the pan, I added a few heaping tablespoons of stone-ground mustard and thyme.  When the sauce had reduced by about half, I stirred in some half-and-half and parsley.  Voila!

Along side the mussels, I served a spring mix salad with mustard vinaigrette and slices of pumpernickel bread which married nicely with the mustard-cream sauce.  Bread (or fries) are a must with mussels to soak up all the saucy goodness.  Geoff thinks this version is even better than it's wine-based cousin, and I think I have to agree.

Mussels Steamed in Beer with Mustard, Garlic and Thyme
serves 2, generously

2 lbs. mussels
6 oz. wheat beer, I like Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh thyme
3 tbsp. half and half
1 heaping tbsp. stone-ground mustard
2 tbsp. parsley, minced
1 tbsp. butter

1.  Clean mussels, remove beards, and discard any mussels that are open or cracked.
2.  In a very large pot, melt butter and cook garlic until just starting to color
3.  Add beer and bring to a simmer over medium.
4.  Add mussels, cover pot, and let the mussels.  Steam for about 3-5 minutes or until the mussels open.
5.  Remove mussels and split into two large bowls.  Discard any mussels that don't open.
6.  Add half and half (or heavy cream, use what you have on hand) to the liquid in the pot and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce.
7.  Stir in parsley and pour over mussels.

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