Friday, 18 December 2009
Why mussels? Because we were so entranced with the mussels in our soup on our Niagara Wine Tour that we decided we neeeeeeded to have more mussels as an appetizer.
Yes, I know. We’re inland so all seafood has to be flown in. We do love fish but increasingly, we feel horribly guilty when we have it. Wild fish stocks are horrendously depleted. Many farmed fish escape into the wild system and spread disease. But after having that amazing mussel/shrimp soup, we just couldn’t help ourselves from getting some more PEI mussels.
One of the things we really like about the PEI mussels is that they are farmed. Wait a minute!! Didn’t I just say that farmed seafood escapes?
Happily, farmed mussels are quite different from other farmed fishes.
With seventy-five percent of world fish stocks overly exploited, we are depleting the marine life that we eat faster than their populations can replenish. [...] [R]ope-grown mussel aquaculture, strikes a perfect balance for the health and well being of our planet. [...] Mussels filter tiny plankton out of the water for their food, so they need no supplemental feeding. Unlike some forms of fish farming, mussels are not raised in crowded pens and do not rely on the farmer to feed them. They get all their nourishment naturally, from the pristine ocean waters that surround them while they grow. In return, they improve the water quality as they clear the water of excess plankton. Mussels must come from non-polluted water when farmed for human consumption. The Canadian Fisheries Department tests the waters on a daily basis to ensure the coastal waters are clean and free of any toxins.
- excerpt from canadiancove.com: Mussel Sustainability
Mussel farming is, by definition, green and sustainable. Mussels cannot tolerate the discharge of sewage or other toxins; the presence of mussel farming, therefore, often results in increased awareness and monitoring of coastal waters. In addition to being important modulators of nutrient cycles in ecological systems, farmed mussels help to reduce greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide from the ocean for shell formation.
- excerpt from aquaculture.ca: Canadian Farmed Mussels
Just before buying the mussels, we stopped at the wine store and picked up an inexpensive (but decent tasting) bottle of Argentinian white wine – a Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc blend.
(<rant>If Canadian tax laws didn’t take such a gouge out of Canadian wine producers, we would have been able to afford to buy a comparable bottle of locally-produced white wine. But with Canadian wine, anything drinkable is well over the $10 mark. It just goes against the grain to use expensive wine for cooking…. </rant>)
And butter. Of course. Even though we already had butter on hand. We just wanted to make sure….
I gather that some people say that cream is de rigeur for Moules Marinière. But we decided that butter works just as well. And it’s so much better for us. Or something.
Here’s what T did to make the mussels:
(or is that “Moules Meunière”?)
no measurements, just use your judgement
- unsalted butter
- onion, chopped finely
- garlic, chopped
- dry white wine
- Sort through the mussels. Rinse them under cold running water and discard any that refuse to close when sharply tapped.
- Melt butter in the bottom of a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently til the onions are soft.
- Pour in wine and bring to a boil.
- Throw in the mussels. Put a lid overtop to allow the mussels to steam for about 5 minutes. Shake the pot every so often.
- When the mussels are open, ladle them into heated bowls. Discard any mussels that are closed.
- Bring the wine mixture to a high simmer and then add the parsley. Turn the heat down to medium and let the liquid simmer for a minute or so.
- Ladle the parsley mixture over the mussels.
Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
* Because the mussels have been stored in seawater, they don’t need any extra salt.
* Not much wine is required. The mussels give off a lot of salted water. (For two pounds of mussels, it might be about a quarter cup of wine.)
We served these with a crusty loaf that I had formed into a ring. The bread turned out fabulously. (I’m very excited about the relatively new way of shaping that I learned from watching this YouTube video and then leaving the shaped bread in the fridge overnight and baking it the next morning. The crust is even more caramelized and crispy and the crumb has a wonderful nutty flavour.)
Mmmmm!! Mussels in wine and butter and parsley – with crusty bread and a glass of the semillon sauvignon blanc. How delectable! It was so fabulous that we plan to serve this on Christmas Eve. And maybe New Year’s Eve too. (If some is good, more must be better?) Were they as wonderful as the benchmark mussels we ever had on one of our bicycle trips one crisp autumn Sunday afternoon in Brive? It seemed so. They were so fabulous that they tasted like more….
And that was just the starter!
To be ready for the main course, a special bottle of wine was decanted and placed on the table. Stay tuned for the next spectacular course….
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Isn’t parsley wonderful? It looks so beautiful. And I love its crisp clean flavour. How on earth can people leave their garnishes of parsley lying on the sides of their plates? Parsley is one of the best palate cleansers I know.
It’s good for us too!
Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. It is a good source of iron and folate. Parsley’s volatile oil components include myristicin, limonene, eugenol, and alpha-thujene. Its flavonoids include apiin, apigenin, crisoeriol, and luteolin.
- excerpt from World’s Healthiest Foods: Parsley
According to another online source, parsley contains more Vitamin C than most citrus fruits (of course, the source didn’t say how much parsley contained more vitamin C than how many citrus fruits… ).
I also love that parsley is so readily available on just about every fruit and vegetable stand too. As soon as we get it home, we wash it, cut the stems and stick it into a vase to put onto the counter and ensure that the leaves air-dry. Having the vase of parsley on the kitchen counter is wonderful – people can pluck off a few leaves to munch on or toss onto a dish to add a touch of brilliance.
We do use parsley liberally, because even when stems are cut and the vase water is changed daily, the parsley tends to fade and wilt within a couple of days.
We try always to use all of it up without having to relegate it to the composter. We finished up this particular bunch of parsley when we made stock a couple of days after this spectacular dinner.
Our vase method of parsley storage goes against some recommendations. Many people say to wash parsley just before using.
Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile. [...] It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value. [...] If you are making a light colored sauce, use the stems [...] as opposed to the leaves, so the sauce will take on the flavor of parsley but will not be imparted with its green color.
- excerpt from World’s Healthiest Foods: Parsley
Read more about parsley:
- Some previous WHB posts about parsley:
* I love potato salad… (WHB#46)
* Quiche! (WHB 2nd anniv)
* Nigella’s Chicken (WHB#127)
- herbs from OUR garden – growing parsley
- World’s Healthiest Foods: parsley
- wikipedia – parsley
- Plants For a Future – Parsley
- Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages – parsley
This week’s WHB host is Haalo (Cook Almost Anything). The deadline for entering WHB#214 is Sunday 20 December 2009 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). For complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:
Poor us (cough); we had a few too many mussels for our appetizer. So we shelled them, stuck them in the fridge and had them the next night in chowder. Happily, there was a baguette left as well. Oh my.
edit 21 December 2009: Haalo has posted the roundup. Take a look at the wonderful entries this past week:
Please remember to look at my annual Advent calendar (but don’t even THINK about peeking ahead).