Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fun with Bivalves

Mussels are a great weeknight go-to meal for the family. Kids love them because of the "eww" factor, and they are one of your less-expensive seafood options. Make sure that the grocer packs them on ice but leaves the bag open to the air so that they don't suffocate on the way home. (My bagger at Whole Foods tried to tie the plastic bag containing my mussels shut.) When you get home, decant your mussels to a colander set in a large bowl and store in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Here's one of my favorite ways to prepare them.

Weeknight Mussels for Four

1 stick butter
6-8 cloves garlic or a couple of shallots, minced
1/2 bottle decent white wine
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 lb spaghetti

Clean the mussels under fresh water and pull any "beards" off of them. (Fun fact: Saavy fishermen have historically knit gloves from the fibers that comprise mussels' beards.) Make sure that the mussels are all closed; enlist children to help you bang the open ones gently on the counter; if they don't close within a couple of minutes, throw them away (they are dead). Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic or shallots (or both) and saute until fragrant. Add the wine and the mussels. Cover the pot and cook over medium high heat until the mussels open and are cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti and the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately. Teach kids how to use an empty mussel shell as a tool extract mussels from their shells and eat them. If you are feeling really decadent, heat up a baguette and serve with the mussels and pasta (good for soaking up the yummy sauce).

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