Making Mussels, the American Way


I've got a great recipe for you, for steamed mussels. It was inspired by currency issues. Stick with me on this one.

While walking my dog this weekend, I saw a sandwich board posted outside an overpriced jewelry store on my block, celebrating their end-of season sale. Prices were quoted in two currencies: the dollar and the euro.

The euro! In Brooklyn!

I'm happy for global chains like Mark Jacobs, Prada, Gucci and Mui Mui to cater to the well-heeled Euros on the Upper East Side or SoHo, but a small shop owner on my street? Really?

So listen up, all you Europeans: Just know that while you're out shopping and enjoying wonderful American exports like pop culture and McDonald's...(MCD)

I'm taking notes.

I'm reading your cookbooks, and I'm enjoying your great unsung export: home cooking. I'll be saving my (admittedly less powerful) dollars, making my friends and loved ones meal after gourmet meal.

I'm making myself a pot of mussels -- that quintessential Parisian bistro staple -- American style. And hoping that at some point, my American ingenuity and frugality will pay off.

Serves 2 as dinner, 4 as appetizer

Butter, bacon, and beer takes this dish from something intimidating and European to something all American. Since mussels cost no more than $2.99 a pound, you can consider this poverty food, or something special for those with a little American ingenuity.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2-ounce piece slab bacon (about 1/4-inch thick), cut into 1-inch lengths 1 large shallot, minced a pinch of saffron (optional)
  • 3/4 cup white wine or beer
  • 3 pounds mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
  • 2/3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken stock or clam juice, if needed
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • Baguette, toasted, for serving

1. In a wide pot (braising pots are a deal) over medium heat, add butter. When it foams, add bacon and cook until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes.

2. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of saffron (if desired), and stir to incorporate. Pour in wine or beer, and bring to a simmer. Add mussels, cover, and cook until they've opened, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes to pot and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. There should be a nice amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan. If you'd like more, add chicken stock or clam juice. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.

4. Serve in the cooking pot, or invert into a bowl. Serve with a toasted baguette for soaking up the juices.

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