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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Meatless Friday: Quatre

Ok, Ok, so Lent lasts for forty days.  Fourth week of Lent.  Fourth Meatless Friday.  I have been thinking alot about mussels lately.  I adore mussels. Mussels are meatless, yes;  and very sexy.

When we travel or dine out, if mussels are on a menu in any way, we order them. They are typically relegated to appetizer status as a Meuniere (garlic, wine, shallot, butter, and parsley) or simply steamed in beer or wine.  They always have crunchy bread on the side to sop the briny bottom-of-the-bowl broth.  I have been known to drink the broth, with bowl tipped to my mouth in garish heathen style, leaving a garlicky buttery
"Got Milk" mustache across my upper lip.
 Mussels can also have star status on menus. They appear in bouillabasse, paella, and cioppino. At the Black Horse Tavern overlooking Smith Bay in the Hamilton Parrish of Bermuda, I had Curried Mussel Pie, a very traditional dish in Bermuda;  flaky shortcrust  pie dough filled with curry-creamed steamed minced mussels, papaya, bacon, and potatoes.Interestingly odd, but good!  At The Little Inn at Washington, Patrick O'Connell offers a cream of mussel soup, with hints of anise-flavored Pernod, orange zest, saffron, and cream. Fantastically lush.

Locally, we have had mussels all over town.  Le Deuville offers an all-you-can-eat steamed mussels special every Tuesday.  The steam bath wafting off  the mussels alone is drinkable.  Clamato's Mexican Seafood has a seafood soup filled with an entire fish (head and tail) along with mussels, shrimp, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers in fish stock.  Spicy, challenging, and fantastic. Bellinis seafood entree section includes a very classic Farfalle al Frutti di Mare with mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops bathed in a saffron fennel and white wine tomato seafood broth. Acidic tomato and seafood heaven. Personally, my favorite flavor profile is asian, and Arirang Garden's Hoe Mool Tang, with vegetables, crab, mussels, squid, and scallops in a rich spicy stock is heart warming and mouth watering.

As I planned this week's meatless Friday menu, and it does take planning, these mussel memories inspired me.  Nothing too fancy.  Now, Michael has an adventurous palate, but it does have a breaking point.  Curried mussel pie or cream of mussel soup could and would have possibly tipped the scale on that one.  I went with a more approachable Mussels Marinara with Shrimp over imported Cipriani Tagliarelle Pasta.

With Mise en Place, this was very simple and quick to throw together.

I sauteed sliced leeks, shallots, and garlic in a combination of butter & olive oil sprinkled with a dash of salt. After they softened and were translucent, I deglazed the pan with a cup of white wine, letting it reduce by half, and added hand-crushed whole San Marzano tomatoes, fresh oregano, and parsley.  I let this simmer for 30 minutes to blend the flavors, adding a bit more wine to loosen the sauce.

While the pasta was boiling, the mussels were tossed into the sauce, covered, and left to steam open.  A the very last minute, I threw in the shrimp for two minutes to just cook through. When the shrimp were done and the mussels opened, I ladled the tagliarelle directly from the pasta pot into the sauce, stirred to combine, and plated, finishing it with a drizzle of White Truffle oil, fresh torn basil, sea salt for crunch, and AceWeekly's Chef Baby Brother's red pepper flakes for heat. To the side,garlic bread to sop.

We were both undone.  It had everything going on. Velvety sauce, melted leeks, al dente toothsome pasta, plump squirting mussels, and perfectly cooked shrimp with fresh specks of oregano, parlsey, and basil swimming throughout.

I sopped a few times with the garlic bread.

And drank the rest, like a heathen.

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