a special sunday dinner

Last night we were making dinner, and basically had a Thanksgiving food hangover.  All we wanted to eat was something ridiculous & decadent, but what we really needed was to eat something light and healthy.  So we compromised.  

I'd been toying with the idea of making mussels in garlic wine sauce at home for a while now (one of my FAVORITE things to order in restaurants) because I had heard that mussels are actually relatively inexpensive, which is kind of funny when you consider that mussels run you upwards of $20 at a lot of nicer restaurants.  So we went to Whole Foods, talked with the fish monger for a minute about if they were good that day, was it really that hard to cook them, and eventually went home with a pound of live mussels for $5.  That was silly, we should've bought 3!  Mussels don't have much meat, so you need quite a few, and you have to account that you'll throw out about a 1/4 of them.  

So here's what I made - I didn't follow any real recipe, I read 4 or 5 and then just improvised, and they were DELICIOUS.  End of story.  Don't be scared, just make them!  

Mussels in Garlic Butter White Wine Sauce
(serves 2 for dinner, 4 for an appetizer)
takes about 30 minutes, no kidding

3 lbs mussels - this is not a "buy ahead at the weekly shopping trip" purchase
buy your mussels the day you plan to cook them, and when you get them home, remove from ice and set the bag in the cold corner of your fridge
3 cups white wine
8 tbsp butter (one stick)
1/2 cup shallots, chopped into a fine dice
1/2 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

1.  Start by picking through and cleaning your mussels.  Toss out any with cracked shells, and if they're open a bit, tap them on the counter firmly and set aside.  If the open ones don't shut up in a minute or so, toss them as well.  

2.  Rinse the mussels well, scrubbing off any stringy bits.  Then go through them removing the beards (little bunches of stringy muscle peeking out from the side).  They won't all have these, most are removed during processing, but to get the few that remain just pinch between your pointer finger and thumb and tug around until it comes out.  This is, by the way, not entirely essential.  Beards aren't inedible, just not that pleasant texturally, so don't panic if you feel like you missed some!  

3.  In a large stock pot (I used a cast iron dutch oven but anything wide and deep with a tight fitting lid is fine) pour in the wine, butter, shallots, thyme and bay leaf.  Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, and let boil for 2-3 minutes until the liquid reduces a bit.  

4.  Add all the mussels (gently so that don't crack, but quickly) and close the lid tightly.  The mussels will cook for about 5 minutes before the shells open and they're done.  Every minute or so, give the pot a toss so that the mussels are evenly coated in the sauce and each get plenty of heat.  

5.  Remove the pot from heat, and with a skimmer spoon, divide the mussels among wide shallow bowls (you want to be able to keep them in the yummy sauce).  Then spoon the remaining sauce between the bowls.  Serve each person with a chunk of good, crusty french bread.  

Either impress your company with your fancy french cooking skills, or enjoy in your pajamas on the couch Sunday night, while watching Revenge.  

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