Mussels are pretty tasty – briny, chewy, what’s not to like? But honestly, the best part of eating mussels is the broth in which you cook them. You can go traditional, with white wine and garlic, or more modern, with a saffron cream or even beer-based broth. Either way, sop that stuff up with some crusty bread and you are in heaven.
We decided on two recipes: a classic moules à la marinières, and a Thai curry broth. We were going to make the frites in the first recipe, but instead Ann decided to make artisanal bread. And stuffed mushrooms, at the last minute, as you do. Turk and I helped to “shape” (and I use that term loosely) the loaves, and then we got to cooking.
Turns out? Mussels: not that hard. Granted, we didn’t actually purchase them ourselves (Ann took care of that, thank you very much) but I feel like I could whip up a broth again pretty easily. [I was always afraid of how to get them to the point where you cook them ... like rinsing them off and removing their beards. Turns out rinsing is not hard, and a lot of the time the beards are already removed. - Turk] The only tricky part is making sure the mussels are cooked properly – don’t cook them long enough and they won’t open; cook them too long and they’ll be all stringy and gross.
So I threw the butter, shallots, and garlic into the pot along with the parsley and other herbs. Ab had some sauvignon blanc for us to use, but when we ran out we used this . . . off brand (is there such a thing as off-brand wine?) my mom had brought. It was called Avia, it was from Slovenia. Enough said. I poured that in, put the top on, and a few minutes later – FIRE! Flames were shooting out the sides of the pot! I pulled the top off (why? to see the fire close up? I don’t know). Obviously I didn’t know what to do; Abi’s dad’s suggestion to blow on it seemed unwise. Turk maintains that the instructions to "evaporate the alcohol" implied that the top should have been left off; I contend that when you boil water you cover the pot and any deviation from that norm should have been noted by the recipe. It's the recipe's fault! For future reference, the proper reaction was: turning the heat down.
Anyway, presumably at this point the broth had come to a boil, so I threw in the mussels and let them cook until the shells had swung open, and ta da:
Um, then Turk did some stuff with hers . . . different ingredients, same process, lalala. [No, really, after the first batch, it was kind of like that. - Turk] Luckily there were no pyrotechnics. We piled them up in bowls, and sat down with our crusty bread and carefully selected wines for a lovely late-spring outdoor feast: