SPICY MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE

I found this vintage mussel dish on ebay.

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It’s kinda ugly in an interesting sort of way.  I believe it was made in France in the 1950s by Vallauris.

Have you ever heard the saying “some days you’re the pigeon and other days you’re the statue?”  How about “some days you’re the dog and other days you’re the hydrant?”  Well, I’ve got another one for you — some days you’re the seagull and other days you’re the mussel.  Seagulls have a taste for mussels and other shellfish.  To get at the meat inside the shell, they carry the mussel high in the air, and then drop it on rocks below.  They do this over and over until the shell finally cracks open, and then they feast.  (A nice video of this, with some sea lions as an added bonus, can be seen here.)

After certain unpleasant and entirely fascinating recent events in American politics, I think we all might feel a little mussel-like, as if we’d been repeatedly dropped on sharp rocks until a seagull can come and pick our innards out.  This feeling, together with the mussel dish, is the inspiration for this recipe for Spicy Mussels in White Wine.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the Costco near me has a sort of pop-up seafood shop, and they almost always have 3-pound bags of beautiful Prince Edward Island (“PEI”) mussels   — rarely a broken shell in the whole bunch.  In researching mussels, I learned that the size of the mussel varies with the season — they are largest in October and smallest in March.  If a batch of mussels appears to be different colors, don’t worry — pale white meat indicates a male mussel, and a warmer, more orangey colour, a female.  (Yep, another step closer to being Cliff Clavin.)

This recipe is quick and easy, and is  a delicious light meal any time of year. Crusty bread is, of course, mandatory for sopping up the broth.  For times when you are perhaps feeling mussel-like, a soothing, steaming, savory bowl of mussels in white wine will help you feel like you are soaring with the seagulls in no time, at least momentarily.

SPICY MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE
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Recipe type: Seafood, Main Courses
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2¼"-thick slices of lemon
  • 2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any broken shells or that won't close)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped seeded tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt, and saute until onion is golden, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add wine and lemon and bring to a boil over high heat. Add mussels and cook, covered, until mussels open, stirring once to rearrange mussels, approximately 6 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mussels to individual serving bowls. Boil liquid remaining in pot until reduced to 1 cup, approximately 3 minutes. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Pour broth over mussels. Sprinkle with parsley and tomatoes, and serve hot.
  2. (Note: Have lots of crusty bread on hand to sop up the broth.)

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