When I want to be fancy, this is what I make. There is something about a bowl full of mussels that looks a bit decadent. The original mussels are a recipe of Teddy Folkman, a chef at Granville Moore’s restaurant in Washington, D.C., which I’m going to con Jane into taking me to when we visit her. After seeing this recipe kick Bobby Flay’s tuchus on Throwdown, I had to make it.
First off, there are the fries. Anything that comes with a side of fries is bound to be pretty good. Lacking a deep frier, I choose to make oven fries which are just as lovely. It’s what you’re dunking the fries in that’s particularly fantastic. The broth that these mussels are cooked in is a creamy, tangy, blue cheese flavored wonderfulness with bits of bacon and shallot flavoring it to perfection.
Don’t be intimidated, if you can chop and sauté then you can make mussels. Cleaning them is the hardest part and after that the entree is finished in 20 minutes at most. The oven fries take between 30-40 minutes, so make sure they’re in the oven before you start prepping everything for the mussels.
1 russet potato
1 pound mussels
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1/3 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mild, creamy blue
1/3 cup white wine, preferably a dry Chardonnay
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup baby spinach, cleaned and de-stemmed
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean and dry your potato before cutting it into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with enough olive oil to lightly coat them. I usually add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and whatever else strikes my fancy to season them (I used Old Bay this time). Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. I like to line them up on their skins, so I don’t have to flip them and don’t risk their sticking and the crispy part pulling off on the pan. Place the potatoes in the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and fork tender.
While the potatoes are cooking, start cleaning the mussels. Place the mussels in a bowl and cover them with water and a sprinkling of baking soda. Let them sit for 10 minutes – baking soda causes them to spit out any grit that they may have trapped inside their shells. Now for the tedious part: drain and rinse the mussels and then remove their beards by tugging at them until they come off. The beards are those little wire-like threads near the opening of the mussel that used to hold them on to things like rocks or ropes before they were plucked for delightful consumption. Discard any mussels that have broken shells. When exposed to air, mussels should close. If there are any that are open, set them aside, tap on them, and if they don’t close within a minute or two then they’re already dead and should also be discarded.
On to the easy part: Heat the olive oil in a pan over high heat and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until much of the fat has melted away and it starts to brown. Add the mussels, shallots, wine and lemon juice and toss together.
Add half of the blue cheese when the mussels start to open and stir until the cheese melts into the broth. When all of the mussels are open add the spinach and salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the rest of the blue cheese crumbled on the top and a side of potato wedges. Crusty bread is also nice for extra dipping.
Even Clara wanted mussels…