Friday, July 22, 2016

Mussels A Summer Treat

One of the best summer pairings is a plate of steamed mussels, usually served dockside with an icy cold beer. The seafood itself is good a variety of ways and its' an easy cook for home chefs. The best part of them is that they're fun to eat on a hot summer's night.

Mussels are both a fresh and salt water fish and a member of the clam or bivalve family. They're usually found clumped together on the exposed shores of an intertidal  or seashore area. They attach themselves to each other by their "beards" or byssal threads. Mussels have been eaten by humans for millennia and there are seventeen varieties of them. Most fish stores and restaurants usually have the black or navy blue shelled ones. The Belgians are the ones to go mad for them , usually serving them with fries or frites along with a good Belgian beer, The Italians and Spanish usually serve them steamed with white wine and lemon while the Spanish also turn them into croquettes with other seafood. Mussels are steamed in garlic and black bean broth while the Turkish fry them and then put them back into their shells The Indians serve them as a plate with chicken drumsticks, breadfruit and other vegetables. They're also made with coconut paste and rice and then, like the Turks, stuffed back into their shells. Many Americans usually first encounter them at their local pizzeria where they're served with marinara sauce.

There is just one thing to remember when buying them. Living ones will shut tightly when they're taken out of the water and exposed to air. If they remain open, they should be tossed because they're not living.Cleaning them is easy, Put them in a large bowl of water as soon as you get them home. They should remain there for twenty minutes, expelling water (they are filters,after all) and sand. The next step is de-bearding. This requires holding a mussel  in one hand and cover the grasping hand with a towel, Now give it a sharp yank, pulling in the direction of the hinge. The mussels have to be rinsed a second time and then scrubbed of any exterior sand or barnacles.Use a firm brush for this. There are a variety of ways to cook them.Most recipes call for steaming them in white wine but you can use water as well, usually one cup. You can serve them topped with a homemade or even store bought marinara sauce along with a large loaf of crusty Italian bread. You can also go the Belgian route by steaming them in a savory broth of  beer and a variety of herbs such as rosemary, thyme and oregano. They are served with piping hot julienne fries and mayo but you can just have a loaf of crusty, French bread and Stella Artois on hand.

A fun summer meal is a plate of fresh steamed mussels. Make them just for yourself or for a party. They are an easy and delicious, a no fuss meal for these sweltering days.

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