When I saw that our Whisk Wednesday group would be cooking mussels and using the broth for a cream sauce, I hesitated. I thought of all kinds of reasons I could skip this dish. I could say my dog ate page 78 of Le Cordon Bleu at Home and I had no recipe, or I’ve developed a severe allergic reaction to mussels. It’s not that I don’t like mussels, but I’ve only had them in restaurants with lots of garlic bread, and I just suffered temporary fear of the unknown food. I get that with mussels, oysters, and frogs legs for starters, all part of this month’s curriculum.
Well, thank the french that I changed my mind, hurried to the store and right smack in the middle of Wednesday, we had the type of lunch that deserved a bottle of wine. It completely fits my tag line of food a woman will love (because it’s light) and a man will marry her for) because it’s big on flavor and satisfaction.
I fully expected DC, the lover of all things seafood, especially shrimp and scallops, to not like this dish because he doesn’t like any kind cream sauce, deeming them gooey and tasteless. I started thinking ahead on how I could sneak more flavor in the dish and maybe my Wednesday Whisk group wouldn’t notice. Shame on me for not understanding the concept of a flavor delivery from a seafood broth made with wine and cream. We had all the flavor we needed.
It is important to properly clean the mussels. Once cooked, they open up, and should be immediately removed from the heat.
As far as sticking with the recipe, I decreased the scallops and added more shrimp, only because the scallops were $16 a pound. Next time though, we will use more scallops because they were tender and flavorful and searing is not the only way to eat scallops.
This dish is not complicated to make and was ready start to finish in under an hour. It’s an easy and elegant dinner party dish. It was delicious over brown rice with a side of lemony peas, using lots of lemon zest and a bit of olive oil. As the peas fell into the seafood, it added yet another layer of flavor and color and I might do this intentionally the next time. At a dinner party, I would serve the salad last with a very lemony champagne vinaigrette, followed by a decadent french dessert that had berries.
What did I learn?
No matter how much I fight this, there is a benefit in following classical recipes and remaining open-minded. It is difficult for me to cook reading a recipe and not knowing exactly where the writer is taking me. Holding a recipe under my nose is like holding sheet music underneath the musician who plays by ear. I feel and taste my way through cooking and the creative process is my greatest pleasure. However, recipes bring polish and understanding to the process and I appreciate the discipline.
Food fears need to be beaten over the head with a whisk and today I conquered mussels. Every cooking experience makes you a better cook, and increases your ability to “taste” and “improvise.”
So get out there and cook some live mussels in a wine butter broth or whatever your food fear is and see where it takes you.
Please refer to my sidebar for the Whisk Wednesday Blog Roll and see how other experienced this recipe.
Recipe (adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home) Serves 2
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound live mussels
- 1/2 pound wild scallops, cleaned, removing the muscle, cut in half across
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine (this is more than recipe for 2 servings)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, divided
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Scrape mussel shells clean with fork. Throw out any mussels that are not completely closed.
- Place 1 tablespoon butter in saucepan.
- Add shallot just until soft, then add wine and parsley and boil.
- Add mussels and cook until mussels open, about six minutes. Remove opened mussels immediately. Remove mussels to a bowl to cool.
- Pour broth through a sieve. (The book suggests using a dishcloth. I didn’t) Return to saucepan. Once mussels are cool, remove from shells, set aside, discard shells.
Scallops: Add to saucepan of broth, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to simmer 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to a dish.
Mushrooms: Slice, and saute quickly in large saute pan in 1 tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper. Add scallops, mussels and uncooked shrimp. Shrimp will only take a few minutes to cook, so add in just as you are heating the cream.
Cream Sauce: Bring mussel broth to a boil. Add cream and whisk quickly. Bring to boil, simmer for 2 minutes.
Just as shrimp are cooked, add cream sauce. Toss. Serve immediately.
Notes: Original recipe has more scallops than shrimp and serves 6.
Refer to the book for the original recipe.