Friday, June 10, 2011

Easy Last-Minute Paleo Dinner: Garlicky Steamed Mussels

Ah, I love seafood.  I also love quick, easy, healthy meals.  After a busy week, and a quick run through the grocery store on the way home, I came home with two pounds of delicious, fresh mussels!

It took a few minutes, but I finally convinced the lady at the seafood counter that yes, I wanted the plastic bag open.  She looked at me like I was crazy, but it's important to remember that unlike a lot of the seafood in that chilled case, mussels are alive, and they need to breathe.  Mussels can live out of sea water for a short period of time, and they can survive in the fridge, but they do need air. An experienced seafood monger will pick through bulk shipments of mussels, and throw out any with broken shells, or ones that are sealed shut.  Live, happy mussels have their shells open.  When touched/jostled, they will close up to protect themselves.  It's the live ones that open back up.  They should also have a clean, briny smell.  Those are the ones you want to enjoy.

Mussels are super easy to prepare, and fast!  Dinner is on the table in mere minutes.  No salt needed: mussels bring their own distinct briny goodness to the dish.  Here's how to do it:

2 pounds fresh mussels
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 clove crushed garlic
a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper

To prepare:

Preheat a heavy-bottomed lidded pan/dutch oven on medium.

Gently rinse the mussels in a colander under cool water.  (Do not submerge these saltwater creatures in fresh water, or they will die.)

Coat the bottom of the pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Sweat the onions until translucent. Toss in cherry tomatoes, and cook for another minute.

Turn heat up on medium high.  Stir in crushed garlic and black pepper.

Add mussels and white wine/broth, and cover tightly with lid.

After two minutes, switch off the heat.  After three more minutes, carefully open the lid, and check to see if all the mussels have opened.  If not, cover and let sit for a few more minutes, until the majority of the mussels have opened.

Gently toss the mussels, throwing out any that haven't opened, and serve immediately with the broth.  
I gently pull the halves of the shell apart, loosen the mussel from the bottom shell, leaving the little inedible stem in place, scoop up a little of the broth, and down the hatch!  Have a big plate ready to catch all of your empty shells.

Although we usually prepare extra portions when making dinner, cooked mussels don't work too well as leftovers.  Only buy/make as much as you'll eat in one sitting.  Enjoy with a nice fresh side salad, for a quick, easy, any-night dinner.

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