my first attempt at steamed mussels

mussels on the stovei like to cook. if you know me (i assume the 3 or 4 people who actually read this blog do), then you know i enjoy cooking. i find it very fun to experiment with cooking, baking, etc. today, i decided it was time i tried my hand at mussels. i’ve thought about doing this for a long time but was always a bit nervous that it would be difficult or turn out gross.

after googling for a recipe and deciding that i didn’t quite like any of them, i wrote my own – sort of. it was more like a list of ingredients with relative amounts and a few ideas about when to add/subract/heat/move ingredients. i’m sure you’re quite intrigued by now as my explanation has been just amazing. so without further ado, here is my “recipe”:

  • ~1lb. mussels (from the fresh market down the street, btw, i love this store)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 2/3 c. white wine #

above is what i used. here is how i did it (not necessarily how i should have done it)*:

  1. rinse mussels
  2. remove broken/open mussels – throw away – because they are dead and will taste gross (or kill you)
  3. trim “beards” from those mussels which need it
  4. heat butter in large pan – i used my calphalon 3qt. saute pan with lid
  5. chop garlic into chunks – dicing didn’t seem necessary because it was just for flavor.
  6. slice habaneros into thin slivers – i didn’t remove any of the seeds or membrane (may have been a mistake, more later)
  7. add garlic and peppers to heated butter – probably like medium-high heat, when the butter starts to sizzle a little
  8. saute until the garlic is browning a bit
  9. add wine – i took it off the heat for this
  10. add mussels
  11. bring to a [light] boil and then turn down heat to simmer
  12. put lid on pan
  13. remove mussels as they open nicely – some take longer than others [who knew?]
  14. pour broth over cooked mussels
  15. get rid of mussels that don’t open

overall, i was pretty happy for the final mussel dishmy first attempt, but guess what? it was damn spicy. i thought sautĂ©ing the habaneros would reduce the spice enough, but boy was i wrong. don’t get me wrong – i love my food spicy, but this was a bit too much, even for me. also, i was not content with the garlic flavor of the “sauce.” so, here are my thoughts for the next time i try this:

  1. either use 1 whole habanero or 2 with seeds and membranes removed – this i will have to experiment with, but i just can’t deal with that spice again
  2. lots more garlic – i couldn’t even taste the garlic in this which is usually one of my favorite flavors in mussels. i will probably try 6 cloves next time and see what happens
  3. more butter as well – couldn’t taste this either and i think it would have added a lot to the overall experience. i might also try olive oil – in the “sauce” – i think it might be a good flavor
  4. i meant to add fresh ground pepper but forgot. i think this would add a lot to the flavor and texture. not sure if i would recommend milling or hand-grinding, another experimental ingredient for the future.
  5. as for stove heat – think i will try keeping it higher next time. some mussels were done in a few minutes while others took 10 or so minutes. i would like to try to have more finish at the same time so will also try to experiment with this.
  6. finally, i think i might cut the wine down a bit – while the flavor of the wine wasn’t overwhelming (even though i drank the same wine with the meal), i think i might cut it down with some water or…something next time. the “sauce” was a bit sweet with the spicy – maybe like 1 c. wine with 2/3 c. other liquid

as i said, overall, i was quite happy, but think my recipe needs work. i think at $3.99/lb for the mussels i can afford to try this a few times without breaking the bank.

if i make this again in the near future, i’ll be sure to post my thoughts as a comment or update here, or a whole new post depending on the recipe. stay tuned and good cooking!

#the wine i used (and incidentally drank with the meal) was a 2006 Simi Sauvignon Blanc [Sonoma County]. the flavor was crisp and very soothing. the wine cooled my taste buds from the habs and was not at all overpowering of the dish – which was very nice. i kept the bottle out and it warmed quickly in my apartment as the a/c was off. it was much more soothing when chilled – just something to keep in mind.

*excessive detail included for those who haven’t tried cooking mussels before

now off to some stone smoked porter if it is cold. i’ll have to tell you all about the brewery tour one day. it was quite a good time….


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