Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Building a Dinner Repertoire for Non-cooks (Steamed Mussels Recipe)

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My husband prefers to bake, but he wishes he can cook more for me because I appreciate good food more than great desserts. There is something about being served dinner, without having to be consulted on each step or where the ingredients are in the fridge, that makes you feel taken care of. One cookbook he consulted was The Absolute Beginner’s Cookbook or How Long Do You Cook A 3-Minute Egg? where they leverage prepared foods as ingredients to simplify steps. In wanting to make things from scratch, the scientist in him was attracted to the America’s Test Kitchen recipes. They tend to be too particular about each step, often for good reason, and too many ingredients. He then went back to where he should have all along: his mother. You can find her simple but delicious flank steak recipe on his blog.

It took him a while for him to realize that I much preferred a simple meal cooked well and served on time, than my favorite dish not perfected and eating at 10pm. Prepping takes a long time for people who haven’t cooked much: steps such as measuring out spices, chopping vegetables not only take up time but are done in sequence as opposed to parallel, while searing the meat, boiling the water, etc. I proposed he just learn a couple of recipes like the flank steak, that he can be confident in, doesn’t take long, has only a few steps, and each of the steps is intuitive (e.g., I don’t need to be consulted if the shade of meat being browned is “golden” or not), whose ingredients are easily available and aren’t too expensive. He could perfect the flank steak for a meat dish, develop his skills for a solid vegetable dish, and have a seafood item in his repertoire, and no one else needs to know these are the only things he cooks.

In Denmark, mussels go on sale often when in season and even discount markets sell them. He’s made mussels for me several times, based on a Tyler Florence recipe. Cleaning can take a while, but the steps are simple, and mussels tell you when they are done (they open up!). Besides, it’s one of those dishes that looks impressive, as if you had to have taken professional cooking classes: a low investment of energy, time and money, for a solid wow factor. Another plus? The left over broth also makes a great poaching liquid for rice, or when making paella.

Steamed Mussels

  1. Scrub and rinse 3 lbs or about 1.5 kg of mussels under cold water. Discard ones with cracked shells, and ones that do not close when tapped. Set aside.
  2. Slice or mince 3 garlic cloves, mince 1 small red onion, and sauté them in a pot large enough to hold all the mussels in 1 – 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add a diced red pepper, and 1/2 tsp dried thyme, and 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper. Continue to sauté.
  3. Add the mussels into the pot. Stir them a bit before adding 1/2 cup of Shandy (a beer with lemonade/grapefruit juice) (if not, use white wine), juice of 1 lemon, and 1 cup of chicken broth (homemade, if possible, or canned: avoid using bouillon cubes).
  4. Stir the pot, and then cover, for 4 minutes, then turn off heat. Check to see that the mussels are open. If not, put the lid on and steam on residual heat for another minute or so.
  5. Add a nubbin of butter (1 to 2 Tbsp), and serve immediately (in the pot, if it’s just us). A good toasted baguette makes a great accompaniment.

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This entry was posted on June 22, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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