Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Eve Mussels

Happy New Year!

I hope that your New Years Eve was fun and safe and that you got an appropriate level of drunk.  For the official record, I did not make any resolutions this year.  In fact, if anything, I'm making the opposite of a resolution.  I tend to be a little (okay, a lot) anal retentive about the things I "have" to do, and stress myself out over them.  It's generally not that important.  I need to learn to chill.

A good recent random freak out happened yesterday.  The farmer's market was closed last Saturday (because of Christmas), and yesterday (because of New Years).  For some reason, I got it into my head that I didn't have any food in the house.  That is completely inaccurate.  I still have most of my slightly less than a shit-ton of meat, a fair amount of frozen vegetables, and far more canned goods than a family of six could eat in a winter!  But it was New Years Eve and I wanted to make something fancy, and for some reason I couldn't make it work.  Everything I thought of, there was some reason I couldn't make it.  Fish boil?  No potatoes.  Plethora of assorted seafood products?  Not local enough (and also I spent too much money on Christmas Presents to go about buying crab legs or lobster).

I do want to work on stretching myself.  I have all these canned goods in the basement that I'm not quite sure what to do with.  Pickled beets, fennel, and zucchini... three kinds of chutney...  They're good I'm sure, but how do I make them into a meal?  I was so busy trying to get them all stashed away for the middle of winter that I didn't stop to think about why, or what to do with them.  And now, here we are in the middle of winter, and I'm sill not sure what to do with them.  But, I know I don't want to live on meat and potatoes between now and April, so I'm glad they're there.  I just have to figure out how to actually use them.  I am working on it, and this week's dinners include a few new offerings.  I figure the Christmas Present problem will work itself out fairly soon.  I remember that, when I started this time whole locavore experiment last March, there was almost no food to buy!

I didn't use any of the canned goods in New Years Eve dinner, but I did use a fair amount of freezer vegetables.  One thing I've always frozen is tomatoes.  If you've got the freezer space, (which I now do!) I see no reason to bother canning tomatoes.  They freeze perfectly well, and you can substitute frozen for fresh or canned in any recipe in which the tomatoes are cooked.  I've never done this before, but I removed the skins from the tomatoes just as I would from fresh ones.  I didn't thaw the tomatoes at all, just dropped the frozen tomato into boiling water for a minute, then into a bowl of ice water.  The skins popped right off!  The tomato was still mostly frozen, but the hot water thawed it just enough to make it easy to cut.

Of course, this recipe isn't 100% local, but what's New Year's Eve without a little bit of seafood?  Besides, mussels are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new "Super Green" list.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program lets you check on what seafood you should and shouldn't be eating (it's an app, check it out!) based on their effect on the environment and the health of the fish species.  But the Super Green list also takes into account which fish are best for our health, specifically in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, and in terms of lowest level of toxins in the fish.

So, of course, nothing from Lake Michigan is going to be on this list.

Farmed Rainbow Trout is, though, which makes me feel good, because that's what we eat the most of.  And I can start working more of it into our diet, too!  I had a hard time finding the Rushing Waters Trout (all I ever found was the smoked salmon), however they now have a booth at the Winter Farmer's Market, so we can have fish every week.  And it comes already cleaned, which makes it a lot easier for a weeknight dinner than the rainbow trout and tilapia from Sweet Water.

Anyway, I feel like this recipe was local enough to be a good special New Years Eve treat.  Another thing I found was that the additions made it enough to be a meal.  I have shared two lbs of mussels with my husband and walked away still hungry - a pound of mussels doesn't go far - but with everything else in here we were full and had leftovers.

I am not all about cooking like the tv stars, because it makes too many dirty dishes, however mussels are one exception to that rule.  Once you start going, everything moves pretty quickly, so I would recommend getting everything chopped/measured out before you start cooking.  Plus, then you can look at all your little glass bowls laid out full of your ingredients and shout "MISE EN PLACE!" as if you were doing magic.  Good times.

Mussels with Sweet Potatoes and Chorizo 

  • 1 large sweet potato, about 1 lb
  • 1 lb chorizo sausage, either pre-cooked and sliced into bite sized pieces, or fresh with casings removed and broken into small pieces
  • 1 or 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped fennel (I used frozen from the summer)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup tomatoes (fresh, canned, or frozen), peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 lbs fresh mussels, well scrubbed and de-bearded
  • French Bread, as an accompaniment 
Peel sweet potato and cut into bite sized cubes.  Steam until tender.

If you are using fresh chorizo, cook until brown in a large pot or dutch oven (I'd use one of these, but I didn't get one for Christmas) over medium high heat, about 4 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Drain off all but 1 tbsp fat from the pan.  If you are using the cooked chorizo, set aside for later.

Add either 1 (if you cooked the chorizo) or 2 (if you didn't) tbsp butter to the pot.  When the butter is melted, add the onions, fennel, salt, and pepper, and cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic, and cook for 1 more minute, stirring.  Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomato liquid just starts to boil.  Add in the wine and cream and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the chorizo and cook until warmed through.  Add the mussels, cover, and cook until the shells have opened, about five minutes.  Remove from the heat and fold in the sweet potatoes, trying not to stir too much so they don't fall apart.

If you have a pretty pot (like the one in the link above!) serve it right in there.  If you don't have a pretty pot, still serve it in the pot but don't take a picture of it for your food blog!!

Discard any mussels that don't open, and make sure to soak up the juice with your bread.  It's the best part!!!

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