Country Mussels or Moules Paysanes

Country Mussels

Mussels contain high doses of Omega-3, a fish oil compound that nutritionist say is helpful in reducing cholesterol. Farming mussels is believed to have been invented in France in 1235 by an Irishman named Patrick Walton. The story goes that Patrick Walton left Ireland to escape the police. His boat wrecked on the coast of France. He tried to feed himself by trapping sea birds. To this purpose he planted stakes into the water at the edge of the beach and stretched nets over them. The sea birds ignored the contraption, but after a time he noticed that mussels had attached themselves to the stakes and were growing rapidly.  Cute story! But there are some indications that the Gauls had cultivated mussels even before the roman invasion.

The most common way of preparing mussel is as Moules Marinière; our version today is an extension of this traditional preparation. It is my original version based on several French Southwestern recipes and inspired by what I found at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket this morning and I call it Country Mussel or Moules Paysanne.

First a few tips about mussels:
How much mussels to buy per person?
To serve them as a main dish, get as much as one pound per person. As an appetizer half a pound should do it.

Do’s and Dont’s about store bought mussels

1- Do’s

-Discard dead mussels: that is if one is wide open, it’s probably dead. If they are open only slightly, a quarter of an inch or so it should be fine. How do you tell if a mussel is merely gaping to breathe or if it is dead? Simply put ice on the mussels for 15 minutes then tap them gently. They should begin to close. If they move, they are alive therefore  can be eaten – even if they don’t close all the way. If a mussel won’t move, and is gaping widely, it is probably dead, past it’s shelf life and should be discarded.
-Throw out broken-shelled mussels.

Mussel with byssal threads-De-beard mussels.  Most likely you will not have to do that, and good for you. I remember cleaning kilos of them in my early restaurant time and that’s ain’t fun. Today they are de-bearded before you buy them, but once a while one is missed and you get to see what the beard looks like. The “beard” also known as Byssal, or byssus threads they are the strong, silky fibers made from proteins that are used by mussels to attach to rocks, pilings, or other substrates.-Discard heavy mud filled mussels. Some extra-heavy mussels that are closed may be full of mud. Doesn’t happened very often but worth checking because only one of these unloading its cargo in your kettle of broth will spoil the entire dish. Usually a “mudder” can be discovered by simply squeezing the shells and sliding them apart from each other.
-Rinse them just before using them

2- Don’t

-Do not soak them
-Do not over wrap or purchase over-wrapped mussels. Remember they are alive, do not suffocate them in the fridge or do not store mussels in airtight containers.-Do Not overcook your mussels-Do Not buy mussels that are displayed in live lobster tanks or in shellfish display tanks.
-Do Not eat mussels if you believe you are allergic to shellfish.

Recipe
for 2lbs of Mussels

Sauté 4 shallots and 1/2 lb of Italian turkey sausage (or sausage, or Italian sausage or pancetta, or ham) in a tablespoon of butter and oil (addition of oil will keep the butter from browning); when meat has rendered and the shallots are transparent, add 1 or 2 (depending on how you like it) skinned, seeded and diced fresh tomatoes (canned if not in season). Mix it all well, add a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Add all the mussels (that have just been rinsed), mix well. Add about 1 large glass of dry white wine (about a glass per two pound bag). Close the pot tightly and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add a generous amount of finely chopped parsley or cilantro or basil and also garlic it you would like your dish stronger and especially if your meat was not already spiced.

Mix it all up and let cook for two more minutes. Please do not over cook them, or they will become rubbery. At this point all your mussels are open and ready to be eaten!

Serve in soup plates with a lot of fresh bread to dunk into the broth. Eat them with your fingers and use the shell to scoop out morsels—If you are from Bay Ridge get Country bread at Yanni’s Restaurant on 4th & Ovinton.

Voilà! and now please do watch another one of my homemade videos. The Country Mussel  recipe was literally filmed with the left hand while cooking —and then eating, just watch until the end! with the right one.  I didn’t know I could do this until today.  Honestly tell me if it is watchable and/or helpful.

Papalo Scallops & Corn

scalopscornpapalo

When Miles (my younger son) came into the kitchen and asked quite intrigued: “What is that smell?” I pointed to the Papalo bunch sitting next to the sink.

Papalo is a native South American plant, also known as Papaloquite or porophyllum ruderale or macrocephalum. Its name comes from papalotl, —butterfly in Nahuatl and interesting (to me) in French butterfly is papillon!— The first time I encountered papalo was at a flea market Upstate New-York. A Mexican vendor was getting ready to sell Guarachas*—a dish I wouldn’t mind getting more info on. The women were setting up while the men were all sitting down having lunch. I noticed them picking leaves from the middle of the table and eating little bites with their grilled meat and tortillas.

guaracha

I ordered a Guaracha, I had to ask for the leaves as I wasn’t automatically given some. The lady was a bit surprised as she explained — nicely — that gringos didn’t usually care much for it. She was delighted I would try it as it was the way to eat this dish. It was love at “first bite!”; the grilled meat seasoned with lime, the green salsa, the Mexican cheese all topping a homemade corn tortilla —that looked to have had some beans worked into the dough, and the little bite of papalo to make it a truly “gastrorgasmic” moment. Papalo’s taste is condensed, pungent and close to be an entrancing flavor. It must be used appropriately and parsimoniously.

Harold from Carral FarmA few weeks ago I got some papalo from Harold, owner of Carral Farm and a regular vendor at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket. He also gave me some suggestion on how to use it and recommended to also get some  Anaheim peppers. I picked up a pound of fresh scallops at American Seafood (read previous blog on scallops here and here). And this is the recipe I will share with you today:

Scallops With Sautéed Corn and Papalo (for 3)

cornpepperpapalo

1 lb of fresh scallops
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lime juice
kernels of 2 fresh ears of corn
1/4 cup red bell peppers
1/4 cup sweet onions
1/8 cup green Anaheim peppers
9 leaves of fresh papalo
2 Tbsp brandy or Lillet
1 dollop butter at room temperature

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a stainless still or cast iron frying pan.

scallops

Sear scallops delicately  in the pan or about 3 minutes or so per side —it will depend how thick they are. Do not overcook them. Keep them warm between two plates and reserve until ready to serve.

While the scallops are cooking, sautée all the vegetables (with only 3 leaves of papalo chopped) lightly with olive oil or/and butter (see picture above to see size of veggies).

Déglaze the pan with some brandy or Lillet.  Add lime juice  and retrieve all the juice that have deposited in the scallop plate.

monter sauce

Add a dollop of soft butter and when only ready to serve  “monter la sauce au beurre” —that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a dollop of room temperature unsalted butter; it will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. We have done it before, right? Add salt & pepper to taste and voilà!

*The guaraches turned out to be huaraches. See comments below and huraches blog.

Cooking Demo @ Bay Ridge Farmers Market

Since October 5th we have a farmers market in Brooklyn Bay Ridge. It is held every Saturday from 8am-5pm  at the corner of Third Ave and 95th Street, in parking lot of the defunct Key Food. This location is temporary, a Walgreen pharmacy (another pharmacy?!) is schedule to open in the Spring 2009.

Merci à Marie Dudoy pour la photo!

So, yesterday at 8:30am I strolled down windy Third Avenue carrying a light folding table and pushing my red rolling cart filled with pans, plates, bowls, portable stove, knives and a few groceries that were not going to be available at the southernmost New York Greenmarket. I decided to make omelets because they are very versatile and I could filled them with most of any produce the market manager would like to promote. For the first course Stacey, the market director, and I gathered swiss chards, buffalo salami, buffalo cheese, garlic, scallions from the vendors and this collectage became:

The Bay Ridge Omelet
(for 2)

4 eggs
2 Tbsp of Milk
2 cups of Swiss Chards
10 slices of Buffalo Salami (or 4 slices of bacon)
1 small Garlic clove
1/4 cup of Buffalo Cheese (can be substitute for any cheese you like)
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Salt & pepper to taste

Rince the chards and remove the toughest part of the stalk. Chop it small.
Meanwhile heat a skillet with 1 Tbsp of oil and sauté the salami or the bacon.
If you used bacon chances are that you have more fat in the pan that you begin with, that’s ok, just use it to cook the chards, if you use the buffalo salami (which is very lean) add enough oil or butter to have about 2 Tbsp of fat in the pan and then add your Swiss chards.
Add finely chopped Garlic clove and cook until chards are soft. Reserve them.

Warm a skillet (non stick is easier if you are a beginner) with 2 Tbsp of butter and 1 Tbsp of Oil.
Meanwhile beat the eggs, milk, salt & pepper in a bowl with a fork (do not use a wisk) until foamy.
Add the cheese.

Pour into the very hot skillet (but don’t let the butter take color or burn). Move it around with a wooden spoon or much better by jerking the pan very quickly with a good wrist action. Once you have a very loose scramble egg consistency add your veggies in the middle. Move it around, flip it once, let it set, and flip it onto the plate.

My grand father use to say: “Before hiring a cook ask him (at that time there was no her in the kitchen!) to make an omelet”. He would not tolerate the use of any utensil once the egg mixture was poured into the pan; it had all to be done by wrist action. The omelet had to remain soft in the middle and just coagulated in the outside, never golden, always pale. Yes! a serious “tour de main” or know how is required! The picture of my omelet above is golden, it would approve of it, but that is the way like it!

For the second demo Suzan, who works with Glenn Vickelman of American Seafood, brought me a dozen of plum & shiny “dry packed” sea scallops. Scallops that are without any additives are called “dry packed” while scallops that are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) are called “wet packed”. I personally never eat “wet packed” scallops; I’m not a big fan of STP, I don’t eat stuff that also goes into cleaning product! Do you?

The Bay Ridge Scallop Tapas:
6 Fresh “dry packed” Scallops
Dice one small onion
Dice one red pepper very small
Dice some fresh tomatoes (yeaah, it is end of the season.)
Finely chopped garlic & fresh basil( that too!)

Heat some oil, with or w/o butter in a skillet.
Sauté onions until translucent, add red pepper. When they are soft add the tomatoes and let stew until most of the moisture is gone, add basil + garlic + salt & pepper, let is stew for a few more minutes.
Meanwhile toast slices of country or sourdough bread.

Heat another pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. When medium hot place delicately your scallops in the pan and sear them for about 3 minutes or so per side -it will depend how thick they are. Do not overcook them.

Spread some of the veggies on the bread and place your scallops on top. You can cut the scallop an a half, if you have more people that scallops! garnish with a few of thin sliced scallions or chives.

I have purchased clams, muscles, scallops and haddock from Glenn Vickelman of American Seafood and so far it was all outstanding. A real pleasure to eat seafood again.

Bon, voilà for today! For a complete list of the Bay Ridge GreenMarket vendors click here and for a list of New York City GreenMarkets click here.