She Smells Sea Shells

22 May

I’m from North Dakota.  As such, I never ate that much seafood growing up.  Every Christmas we’d have cod or as we called it “torsk” which I think is Swedish.  My well-intentioned mom would cook the cod until it needed to be scraped off the cookie sheet they were cooked on.  I thought it was pretty good but it wasn’t something that I’d opt for when looking at menus in the future.

Now I live in the land of quite a few lakes.  I’ve grown to love walleye, with or without the beer batter.  Last week I even ordered a shrimp cocktail, which, surprisingly, has nothing to do with booze. 

Moules Frites

These mussels beat out a Vegemite sandwich any day.

It’s good timing, my willingness to love the fruit of the sea.  Remember when I babbled on about sardines?  Well, I’ll remind you.  It came down to me suggesting that when in Rome,or Milwaukee or Dubuque, we should try the local specialty.  It doesn’t mean that we’re always going to like it but it’s part of being there and experiencing the place.

And now I’m studying Brussels and I’m talking myself into trying mussels.  They go so well together that they rhyme.  The Belgian/French dish of moules frites (mool freets) combines mussels with Belgian fries.  The fries are not going to be a problem.  Right now, my mouth is watering thinking of the suckers.  It’s the eating of clams that I’m working to get my head around.  After all, these guys have beards.  Thankfully, I read that the beards are just muscles that are formed to keep the mussels in their shell and that they sometimes use their beards to kill.  Yes, really.

What really helped me get my head around eating clams was the recipe I found for Belgian mussels.  Now, I’m about as likely to make these things at home as I am to land a place on the Vikings but you might not be me.  So below I’ve included the ingredients listed.  If you want to make the recipe itself, click this link.  And one last thing.  I’ve read that you should use the shell of your first mussel as a utensil to get the other guys out of their shell.  How you get the first one out must involve a fork and a bunch of grimacing.  Bon apetit!

Belgian Mussels

  • 1 kg fresh mussels
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 150 ml dry white wine, such as Muscadet
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod (optional) or 1 teaspoon pastis (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)

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