Last Saturday the GF and I were in the mood for mussels and fries. I’ve never made mussels at home, but always enjoy a good bowl with fries whenever I get them in a restaurant. So I figured it was about time to bring the meal home. I was in the mood for a white wine saffron broth, the GF was in the mood for something lighter. And so another faceoff was born.
Mussels in Spicy White Wine and Saffron Broth
For some reason I was craving saffron. So I built around that key ingredient. My mussels were inspired by this recipe from epicurious.com, with the quantities halved since I had about 3 pounds of mussels. I also made a couple of key changes. Here’s what I ended up with:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/2 cup clam juice
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- juice of one lemon
- 4 basil leaves
- 1/2 of a fresh chili pepper, thinly chopped
Instructions: Simple as can be. Sauté the garlic and shallot in the butter and olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add the wine, chile and saffron; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the clam juice, lemon juice and basil; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and steam until they are all open, about 5-7 minutes, shaking (with the lid held down) / stirring the pot a few times. Throw away any mussels that do not open. Serve with broth.
Mussels in White Wine and Red Wine Vinegar Broth
My GF’s mussels were inspired by a recipe from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, modified to work with the ingredients we had available and with an ingredient or two added to the mix. Again for about 3 pounds of mussels (yes, you’re reading correctly, we had 6 pounds of mussels for two people. Mix up at the fish market!):
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup clam juice
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- dried chili pepper flakes
- juice of one lemon
Instructions: Similar to above, but a bit different. Sauté the garlic and chili flakes in the olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add the mussels, cover lid and steam for about a minute. Add the wine and cover for about 3 minutes (shaking and stirring). Add the vinegar, lemon, salt and clam juice, cover and steam until all muscles have opened. Serve with broth.
I’ve made fries a number of times and this was definitely one of my better efforts. Not to toot my own horn (too much), but I’d put these fries up against 90% of the fries that I have eaten in restaurants. Really good. And really simple.
- four medium sized yukon gold potatoes (skin left on)
- olive oil
- salt, pepper and garlic powder
Cut the potatoes into thin fries and soak them in cold water for about 40 minutes, changing the water after 20 minutes. When you’re ready to bake them, dry them with a paper towel and coat them liberally with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper at 395 (convection oven) for about 35-40 minutes. Done.
The two mussel dishes we produced were very different and we both agreed that the one each of us had prepared was the better dish. It’s good when things work out like that. Mine was earthy, warm and full of bold flavour; manly, if you will. The GF’s was lighter, fresher, sweeter and, in her words, simpler. Both had a bit of kick due to the chili, but I would add more next time and in fact added some dry flakes to my bowl. What we did agree on was that the fries were great and that we should make mussels more often. Delicious, simple and, incidentally, cheap as hell. How can you go wrong?