Monday, May 23, 2011

Mexican Cerveza Steamed Mussels

I've lived on all three coasts of the US. First was Baton Rouge, then San Francisco, and now Boston. I grew up eating seafood and often crave the salty brininess of mussels. My husband doesn't like the texture of mussels, but loves the broth from this dish. I eat the mussels and share the broth with him, which we soak up with bread.

The goods:

Cooking mussels at home is surprisingly simple, fast, and inexpensive. They only need to be cooked for 4 minutes to come out perfectly tender. Mussels are one of those things that turn out better when you make it at home rather than ordering it in a restaurant. In restaurants, they often sit under heatlamps after cooking, overcooking them and makes them rubbery. Plus, they are super cheap at the grocery store. In grocery stores here they are usually $2-3 per pound. A pound or pound and a half serves 1, so you can have a fancy lookin' dinner for just $3 per person.

The tweaks:

The basic recipe for delicious mussels is some combination of garlic, diced tomatoes, something acidic and alcoholic, like wine or beer, with something green like parsley to garnish. I like to make mine with a Mexican twist. I use a Mexican beer like Corona or Negra Modelo (a darker, richer lager), Rotel Tomatoes (canned diced tomatoes and chilies), and garnish with cilantro. Sometimes I use an IPA instead of the cervesa, which adds a lovely acidity and bitterness.

Mexican Cerveza Steamed Mussels

1 T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup beer (Corona, Negra Modelo, or IPA)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos
1/2 t salt
3 lbs. live mussels
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 T lemon or lime juice

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time 4 minutes. Serves 2

In a large saucepan, saute the first 3 ingredients. Add beer, Rotel, and salt. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, clean and debeard the mussels. (It's easy!) Have a large bowl of cool water ready. Look at each mussel. If there are little scraggly thread things hanging out the shell, these are "beards". Pull them off and throw them away. If a mussel's shell is open, and it doesn't close when you tap it, throw it away. It's dead. Don't eat it. After you've checked each mussel, drop it into the bowl of water. This will help clean them. Pour out the water and give them a final rinse.

Add mussels, stir, cover, and reduce heat to med-low. Steam, covered, for 4 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Garnish with lemon or lime juice and cilantro. Serve with crusty bread to sop up that delicious broth!

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