Saturday, March 20, 2010

February Goal: Mussels for Valentine's

After having a delicious bowl of mussels with chorizo at The Blue Marlin during winter restaurant week, I decided I would recreate this dish for my February cooking goal.

Gabriel and I decided that instead of going out on Valentine's Day and facing overpriced meals and crowded dining rooms, I'd make dinner on the 14th, and we'd go out to our favorite restaurant, Sardine, later in the week. So mussels and chorizo went on the menu for v-day.

I don't often cook seafood, and when I do, it's usually fish from the freezer section. So even buying the mussels took me out of my comfort zone. I found a small seafood store in Madison, and ventured there on the 13th. I bought 2 lbs of fresh mussels, and stored them in the fridge in a bowl covered with a damp cloth. The next afternoon, I found one of the mussels had clamped on to the cloth. They were alive for sure!

To prepare the mussels, they first took a 30 minute soak in bowl of flour and water (so, in principle, they will disgorge sand and take in flour, making them plumper). Next I went over the shells with a wire scrubber and pulled out the stringy "beard" that helps them attach to rocks. I also discarded mussels that were open and didn't close after I tapped them. Finally, the mussels went into a hot pot of white wine, tomatoes, chorizo, shallots, garlic, and thyme. I was roughly following an Ina Garten recipe to make sure I had about the right proportions and for the method, but otherwise I was winging it. (My recipe appears at the end of this post.)

After a few minutes steaming in the wine, the mussels started to swing open. Gabriel and I peered in through the clear lid at the yawning shells. The smell of shallots cooked in chorizo fat was making our mouths water, and it was difficult to wait the 8 minutes it took for them to steam.

The rest of the menu was decided at the last minute. I was going to make short ribs, but I didn't have a great recipe for them. At the farmer's market, the vendor showed me a few different cuts of meat, and I finally decided on a large top sirloin that ended up providing 4 smaller steaks.

For dessert, Gabriel wanted something chocolate (maybe), and not fruit (probably). He's more of a milk chocolate guy, while I often find milk chocolate too one-note and sweet for my tastes. But I found a very interesting and not-at-all one-note recipe in Bon Appetit's February special on milk chocolate.

mussels steamed in white wine with chorizo
Dr. Beckermann Liebfraumilch (our favorite Trader Joe's wine)

top sirloin from Fountain Prairie Farms
butternut squash risotto

Les Jamelle Pinot Noir (a gift from Carlos and Lana)

Mussels Steamed in White Wine with Chorizo
Serves 2-3 as a large appetizer

2 lbs fresh mussels
1/4 cup flour
1/2 lb bulk chorizo
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
2 or 3 shallots, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 cup chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme

1. To prepare the mussels, put them in a bowl with 2 quarts water and flour, and let sit for 30 minutes. Pull off the "beard," and scrub shells with a brush or metal scrubber if they are dirty. Discard shells that are open which do not close tightly soon after being tapped.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil at medium-high in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Break chorizo into small pieces and brown it in the olive oil.
3. Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat. Add additional olive oil if needed. Saute shallots in the oil until they are tender. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes more, stirring, and making sure the garlic doesn't burn. Add tomatoes.
4. Pour in white wine, and let it boil down for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the chick broth, reserved chorizo, and thyme. Bring to a boil.
5. Add the mussels. Cover the pot and steam for 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened after 8 minutes.
6. Serve mussels in bowls, and ladle cooking broth and chorizo over them. Enjoy!

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