Sunday, October 18, 2009

#11: Mussels with Roasted Red Pepper Puree

Roasted red peppers are wonderful things. They're easy to make and hot damn they are delicious. Four peppers and a particularly fragrant bunch of basil helped me make one of my tastiest recipes yet. Roasting the peppers brings out their sweetness, which I accented with garlic and a small amount of cayenne pepper. The sauce was not spicy, nor was it incredibly rich. It's flavor was just subtle enough to allow the mussels to shine through. Per my friend Carl's suggestion, I drank a Fontana Candida Frascati with this dish. Like the red pepper sauce, the wine was slightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly. It was a nice pairing. A whole wheat loaf from Sarcone's did a nice job of sopping up the sauce that was left in my bowl.

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
4 Red bell peppers
1 Small yellow onion, chopped fine
5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup Frascati (or other not-quite-dry white wine)
1 cup Fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper

1) Preheat broiler. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast under broiler, turning every few minutes to blacken on all sides.

2) Place roasted peppers in cold water for a few minutes, then remove skins.

3) Remove seeds and stems from peppers, then puree in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4) In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

5) Saute onions for 6 minutes.

6) Add garlic and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes

7) Add red pepper puree and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. This should allow the puree to thicken.

8) Increase heat to high, add wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

9) Add mussels, cover and steam for 5 minutes.

10) Stir in half of basil and save other half for garnish.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Red Pepper's Revenge

Red bell pepper came close to winning my last poll, so I plan to feature it in my next recipe. But what else will I use? Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

#10: Mussels with Carrots, White Onion and Dill

I posted a poll a few days ago in order to get input from my loyal readers. Each of those readers apparently voted about 5-6 times, as I got 11 votes total. I asked whether my next dish should feature red bell peppers, fennel bulb or dill, and dill was the victor. After seeing dill take the lead, I started to wonder why I had given it as an option. While I like dill just fine, I hardly ever cook with it. The idea of dill with mussels just didn't appeal to me that much. But I have to make 50 damn recipes, so it was inevitable that I would have to use a less-than-desirable ingredient at some point.
I was racking my brain for other ingredients to use in the recipe. My lovely girlfriend Tiana has been very supportive of this project, and she decided to search online for dishes with both dill and mussels. She rattled off descriptions of different dishes until she mentioned one with carrots. I realized instantly that this was the ingredient I was looking for. Carrots, onions and dill make for a tasty combination. I picked up some salmon heads to make a stock with, as well as some dinner rolls from Sarcone's Bakery and a bottle of Ruffino Orvieto. The Orvieto was probably not the best pairing for the dish, but it wasn't too bad for its price.

4 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
3 Large carrots, chopped fine
1 Small white onion, chopped fine
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup Dry white wine
3 cups Fish stock (recipe below)

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.

2) Add carrots and onions (salt and pepper to taste). Saute for 6 minutes.

3) Add garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes, then increase heat to high.

4) Add wine and 1/4 cup of dill. Let wine simmer for 1-2 minutes.

5) Add stock. When stock begins to simmer, add mussels and cover. Cook 5 minutes or until mussels open.

6) Stir in the remainder of the dill.

For simple fish stock:

2 Salmon heads
1 Large carrot, diced
1 Small white onion, peeled and halved
4 cloves Garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Fresh dill, chopped

1) Place fish heads in large pot. Add cold water to cover.

2) Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the remainder of the ingredients, along with salt and pepper to taste.

3) Simmer for 1-2 hours, or until 3 cups of stock remain.

4) Strain stock to remove solids.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Check out this awesome blog!

My buddy Tom has started a blog where he will be posting recipes for meals from every country in the world. It's located at Check it out!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

#9: Mussels with Shrimp and Salsa Verde

I should have learned my lesson after the SuperFresh debacle, but I did not. I thought that I could trust Whole Foods a little more than SuperFresh, as least where mussels are concerned. I suppose I was correct, in that Whole Foods sold me a bag of mussels that were only 82% dead, as opposed to SuperFresh's perfect score. Fortunately, I also purchased a pound of shrimp to round out the meal. Only ending up with 9 live mussels, I had to stage the photograph shown above to show the proportions I had intended (and to make the mussels feel like they were still the star of the show). I find it very disappointing that businesses are willing to sell spoiled shellfish like this, particularly in that it shows a lack of concern for their customer's health. But I didn't take on this project to bitch about big grocery store chains.
Sometimes I like to make dishes with a ton of green ingredients, and this turned out to be one of those. Tomatillos, poblanos, jalapenos, limes and peas all ended up on my plate. Along with the pink shrimp and black mussels, it made for a nice presentation. While the jalapeno that I included in the salsa did not end up being particularly spicy, I went with a relatively sweet beverage to help with the heat. Terrapin Beer Company's Gamma Ray wheat wine was a pretty good pairing. Gamma Ray is a very big beer at 11% abv. However, it's as smooth as the large amount of honey that it's made with, and one of the best wheat wines I've had. I was only introduced to Terrapin's beers recently, but they're quite good. I served the mussels and shrimp over saffron rice with peas (the saffron did not seem to provide the same amount of color and flavor that it usually does, so I'm not going to bother to post the recipe for the rice).

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 lb. Large shrimp
2 cups Salsa verde
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped

1) Heat salsa in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. When salsa begins to simmer, add mussels and shrimp and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.

2) Stir in chopped cilantro.

Serve over saffron rice with peas.

For Salsa Verde:

2 lbs. Tomatillos (husk removed)
2 Poblanos
1 Jalapeno
1 small White onion, peeled
5 cloves Garlic, peeled
1/2 cup Cilantro
Juice of one lime

1) Preheat broiler.

2) Place tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeno on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast under broiler for 4-5 minutes. Turn fruit over with tongs, and broil for another 3-4 minutes or until desired degree of roasting is achieved.

3) Place fruit in a bowl full of cold water. After a few minutes, remove the skin and stems.

4) Place all ingredients in a blender and puree. Add salt to taste.

I really liked this dish, and I will be using this salsa recipe again in the near future. I'll also try to post a new recipe soon, as I seem to be lagging a little behind schedule. So check back frequently. Cheers!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

#8: Mussels with a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce

Things don't always work out as we have imagined they will. All but the most tenacious and lucky of us have dreams that will never be realized. I have had dreams, mussel dreams, that have crumbled apart like so many rotten castles made of sand, eroded by the sea. But sometimes things work out really well, like my recipe for mussels with a mustard tarragon cream sauce.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to get me some of that good round crusty bread from Sarcone's. I was planning on drinking a dry white wine with this dish, but things did not work out as I had planned. The only exciting beverage on hand was a large bottle of Meantime London Porter. One might not expect a porter to go well with shellfish, but it actually worked out nicely. Oysters and stouts are a traditional pairing, so why not mussels and porters? The Meantime London Porter is a good porter. It is rich in roasty, nutty flavor with a creamy body that has just the right weight to it. It did not overpower the mussels, and made for a nice combination of flavors with the mustard and tarragon.
It's been too long since I've posted a recipe, so I'll go ahead and do it right now:

4 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
2 Shallots, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 tsp. Dry Mustard
12 springs Fresh Tarragon, chopped fine
1 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 pint Heavy Cream
2 tbsp. Olive Oil

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2) Add shallots and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.

3) Add dry mustard and stir well. Saute 2 minutes

4) Add wine and dijon mustard. Stir well to incorporate the mustard into the wine. Increase heat to high, and let wine cook off for 2-3 minutes.

5) Add half of the tarragon and all of the cream. Bring to a simmer.

6) Add mussels and cover pot. Steam for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

7) Stir in the remaining tarragon and serve immediately with delicious crusty bread.

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Bless the Italian Market

I love Philadelphia's Italian Market. It is one of my favorite places in the world. As our weekends started today, Tiana and I were able to make it over to the market by 1:00pm. Generally this would already be too late to take full advantage of the market's offerings. However, it's raining today, and the streets are pretty empty. I was able to get a loaf of Sarcone's round, crusty bread. This bread is fantastic, and I've only made it to the bakery in time to get it on one other occasion. We hit up Claudio's to pick up some Pecorino Toscano, Parmagiana Regiano and Petit Basque. The next and most relevant stop was at Darigo's, my seafood vendor of choice. Darigo's clearly puts plenty of effort into keeping their seafood clean and well organized. They also have fantastic prices. Unlike the mussels I purchased from SuperFresh, these new mussels do not smell like death. No, they smell like the sea. As they should. And I will cook them soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I am a failure. I thought that maybe by starting this blog, I could trick people who don't already know me into thinking that I am not a failure, but I am a failure, and I have failed. After getting off work at 7:00pm, I took the #23 down from Temple University to South Street. My two options for mussel-purchasing were SuperFresh and Whole Foods. I prefer to shop at SuperFresh in general, as SuperFresh is owned by some guy who I don't know anything about, while Whole Foods is owned by some crazy libertarian anti-union asshole. Also, SuperFresh tends to be cheaper. Politics aside, I would rather purchase my mussels from Whole Foods, as they do put more effort into handling their perishable goods.
The friendly seafood guy at Whole Foods explained to me that this is the worst time of the year for mussels, and that they hadn't gotten any in in a few days. I then headed to SuperFresh, where the friendly seafood guy offered to check in back to see if they had any more mussels. Maybe I should have been a little suspicious at that point. Or when he gave me the mussels in a more or less airtight package. I paid for them, took them home, and opened up the packaging. It smelled horrible, and most of the mussels were open. Prodding them and squeezing them did not cause them to move at all. Steve, the man who first issued the mussel challenge to me and has since become my most dedicated de-bearding assistant, agreed that we were fucked. No mussels for us tonight. I still have my fresh tarragon and my heavy cream and my mustard, but I don't think I'll be able to use them before Friday. My apologies. Now I am going to post a picture to sum up my feelings about this incident. It was taken at the Beijing Zoo. I feel like the bears in this picture. They are sad because they live in a concrete pit and are surrounded by trash that people throw at them.

I lied

When I said that I would post today, I really meant that I would cook something today. I will post tomorrow, unless all the grocery stores near my apartment are sold out of mussels again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Recipe Tomorrow!

I've been getting lazy again when it comes to Musselblog. I've been brewing a lot of beer and haven't had much time to make mussels. But in the past couple of days, I've been fiending for them. Look for a post tomorrow. Something with mustard and cream, most likely.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

#7: Mussels with Soy Sauce, Ginger, Scallions, Garlic and Jalapeno

I really need to come up with better names for these recipes. Anyway, after a week and a half, I finally got around to cooking some more mussels. I wanted to go with an Asian theme this time. In the past, I have very much enjoyed marinating tuna in soy sauce, white wine, garlic, scallions, ginger and jalapenos. When used in subtle proportions, these tasty ingredients add a ton of flavor to seafood without overwhelming it. It seemed inappropriate to serve the mussels with bread, so I made some plain jasmine rice to soak up all of the mussels' delicious juices. To round out the meal, I made a cold salad consisting of strips of cucumber tossed with ginger-key lime vinegar, sesame seeds, salt and a small amount of soy sauce. I drank a nice cold glass of ginger ale with this meal, but a nice medium-dry Riesling would have been better.

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
6 Scallions, sliced thin
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated Ginger
1 Jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup Soy sauce
1/2 cup Dry white wine
1 tsp. Fish sauce
1 cup Water
1 tbsp. Peanut oil
1/2 tsp. Salt

1) Heat peanut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2) When the oil is hot, add scallions, ginger, garlic and jalapeno. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

3) At wine, soy sauce and fish sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes.

4) Add water. When water begins to simmer, add mussels. Cover and steam for 6 minutes.

Serve with rice and cucumber salad.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


It's been far too long, but I promise that a new recipe will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

#6: Mussels with Butter, Garlic, Lemon and Paprika

After formulating recipes involving pancetta and deep-frying, I wanted to make something lighter. Garlic seemed like a good ingredient to build a recipe around, and what better to accompany it than a half-stick of butter? I drew on two culinary experiences to create this simple recipe. The first was a trip that my family took to Kribi, a beach town in Cameroon. I recall sharing a huge platter of shrimp with my family, and if I remember correctly, they were doused in oil, butter, paprika (or something close to it) and enormous amounts of garlic. Getting my fingers covered with oily garlicky goodness was a lot of fun.

But what about this recipe being on the lighter side? I had already decided to use a large amount of butter and I was certainly not going to change my mind. So something had to be done to freshen the dish up a little. This brought me to the second memory that played a role in this recipe, making a nice gremolata to top off some awesomely rich osso bucco alla milanese. This traditional Italian garnish went a long way to balance out the extreme richness of the meat. Incorporating the ingredients of the gremolata into this mussel dish helped to keep it, at least superficially, light and fresh. Because of the fresh, citrusy nature of this dish, I chose to pair it with a Belgian-style witbier. Ommegang Witte was a very good match. Without further ado:

4 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
12-16 cloves Garlic, minced
Zest of 2 medium lemons
Juice of aforementioned lemons
4 tbsp. Butter
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 cup Parsley, chopped
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Salt
Black Pepper
3/4 cup Dry white wine

1) Melt butter with oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2) Add garlic and lemon zest. Saute 2 minutes

3) Add 1/2 cup parsley, salt, paprika, and a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper. Cook 2 minutes.

4) Turn heat up to high. Add lemon juice and white wine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes

5) Add mussels, cover pot, and steam for 6 minutes.

Garnish with parsley and lemon slices. Serve with hearty bread and a Belgian wit.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wanted Alive: Some Mussels

I was going to go ahead and cook the butter, garlic, lemon and paprika mussels that are most likely going to win the previously-posted poll. Unfortunately, after spending the better part of the day brewing my fall seasonal "Reaper's Breath Dunkelcrunkelweizen," buying mussels at the Italian Market was not an option. Normally Whole Foods has mussels, but at 7:00pm they had already sold out. I guess mussel fever is sweeping the nation. Superfresh's seafood counter had already closed, so there will be no mussels today. It's rough trying to keep myself up to my elbows in beer and mussels, and sometimes it doesn't work out. But I'll get back on my mussel horse, and a recipe will be posted before the end of the weekend. And if it's not, I'll come back and change this post to look like I never said that it would be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#5: Fried Mussel Po' Boys with Spicy Aioli

I wanted to change things up a little, so for my fifth recipe, I decided to try something aside from simply steaming the mussels. Like any sane person, I love fried stuff, so I thought I would make mussel po' boys. I used Mario Batali's recipe for cozze frite as a rough guide for deep frying the mussels (it was the first result listed for my Google search), and the Joy of Cooking's aioli recipe as the basis for my slightly spicy aioli. Here is an approximation of what I actually did:

2 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 cup All-purpose flour
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 cups Olive Oil
1 loaf Soft french bread
6 leaves Romaine lettuce
2-3 Scallions, sliced into thin rings
1 Lemon
1 cup Spicy aioli (recipe below)

1) Steam mussels in 2 cups of water in a large pot on high heat just long enough for them to open (2-3 minutes).

2) Strain the mussels and use a fork to remove their meat. Avoid using your fingers to do this, as it can crush the meat.

3) Beat the eggs in a bowl, and combine the flour and salt in another bowl.

4) Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Turn the heat down to medium.

5) Dredge the mussels in flour, and then wash them in eggs. Try to let any excess egg run off to avoid having the mussels clump together.

6) Gently drop the mussels in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted or mesh spoon to a plate covered in paper towels.

7) Cut bread into 8 inch portions and slice down one side. Lay 1-2 leaves of lettuce at the bottom of the sandwich. Spread the top liberally with aioli. Pile on the mussels and sprinkle with lemon juice and scallions.

Spicy Aioli Recipe:

2 Egg yolks
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cup Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Ancho chili powder (not spicy)
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Cold water
1 tsp. Lemon juice

1) Whisk together egg yolks, garlic, salt, and spices in a large bowl.

2) While continuously whisking vigorously, very slowly add olive oil. After 5-10 minutes of excruciatingly slow drizzling of olive oil and intense whisking, the aioli should thicken.

3) Whisk in cold water and lemon juice.

I very much enjoyed drinking a Jever Pilsener with my po' boy. Jever is a particularly hoppy North German pilsener. Its bitterness helped to accentuate the sweetness of the mussels.

Welcome to MusselBlog


My name is Ben. I currently live in Philadelphia, PA. Living in Philly has greatly increased my appreciation for nature's most affordable bivalve, the mussel. Two of my favorite restaurants, Monk's Cafe and Zot, serve Belgian-style mussels in a variety of delicious ways. While I was originally lured to these establishments by beer, I came away with a new appreciation for my new mollusc friends. I discovered that I could purchase them fresh at Philly's phenomenal Italian Market for about $2 per pound. When my friend Steve learned of the availability of fresh and reasonably priced mussels at the market (which is only three blocks from my house), he challenged me to cook mussels 50 different ways in the next year.

While I did agree to this challenge, I honestly did not take it very seriously at first. After all, Steve did not offer me any kind of reward. What's up with that, Steve? But I had so much fun cooking the first few recipes that I decided to start this blog and let the rest of the world in on my quest. I think of myself as a good cook, but not an amazing one. I will be coming up with some of these mussel recipes entirely on my own, and some will come directly from recipes written by others or from restaurant menus. I will try to cite recipes, restaurants and people that have influenced my creations, although I often just read a dozen random recipes for any given sauce or dish and make up my own variation as I go along. Anyway, I hope that this blog will provide inspiration to somebody out there.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

#4: Mussels with Pancetta, Leeks and Feta

3 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
2 large Leeks, chopped
1/3 lb. Pancetta, diced
1/2 lb. Bulgarian feta, crumbled well (drier feta works better in this dish).
1 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup Dry white wine
1 tbsp. Olive oil
2 tbsp. Butter

1) Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.

2) Add pancetta and cook 5-8 minutes or until crisp.

3) Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon. Add butter.

4) Once butter is hot, add leeks. Saute 8 minutes.

5) Add 1/2 cup parsley, pancetta and wine. Simmer 2 minutes.

6) Increase to high heat. Add mussels, cover, and steam for 8 minutes.

7) Add feta and parsley. Stir several times, then serve.

#3: Mussels with Hefeweizen Curry Sauce (August 1, 2009)

5 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded.
12 oz. Hefeweizen (I used Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, which is a fairly traditional hefe)
14 oz. Light coconut milk
1 tbsp. Yellow curry powder
10 Scallions, sliced thin
1/2 tsp. Ginger powder
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped Basil (I used sweet basil, but Thai basil would be ideal)
1 tbsp. Peanut oil

1) Heat peanut oil in large pot over medium to medium-high heat.

2) Add scallions and saute 5 minutes.

3) Add curry powder, ginger, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Cook 3 more minutes

4) Add coconut milk and hefeweizen. Simmer 5 minutes.

5) Increase to high heat. Add mussels, cover, and steam for 8 minutes.

6) Stir in basil.

Serve with bread and hefeweizen.

#2: Mussels with Spicy Tomato-Saffron Sauce (July 24, 2009)

5 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
3 lbs. Tomatoes
1 Long red chili pepper, fine dice
2 Shallots, minced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 cups Chopped parsley
1 cup White wine
1 hearty pinch of Saffron
1 tbsp Olive oil

1) Blanch tomatoes for 1 minute in boiling water. Rinse with cold water and peel. Chop tomatoes thoroughly. Reserve juice in a separate bowl.

2) Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

3) Add shallots and chili. Cook 5 minutes

4) Add garlic. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

5) Add tomatoes without juice along with 1/2 cup parsley. Simmer 5 minutes.

6) Add white wine, tomato juice and saffron. Simmer 6-8 minutes.

7) Increase to high heat. Add mussels, cover, and steam for 8 minutes.

8) Add 1/2 cup parsley and stir several times, then serve.

#1: Mussels with White Wine and Shallots (July 17, 2009)

5 lbs. Mussels, cleaned and debearded
4 Shallots, minced
2 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 cups Chopped parsley
1.5 cups Dry White wine

1) Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

2) Add shallots and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add salt to taste.

3) Add 1/2 cup parsley and 1 cups white wine. Simmer for 2 minutes.

4) Increase to high heat. Add mussels and 1/2 cup wine. Cover and allow to steam for 8 minutes.

5) Add 1/2 cup parsley and stir several times.

Serve with hearty bread.