Liven up your Easter Dinner with Spicy, Steamed Mussels and Fennel
2010-04-01 · By Editor
Make Easter a festive spring affair by serving up a marine treat for the whole family. A fresh and healthy seafood option, fresh blue cultivated mussels are easy to find and prepare and lend itself especially well to the celebrations and sharing of the Easter season.
“Fresh Blue Cultivated Mussels are a nutritious, simple and affordable alternative to the traditional Easter meal,” says Linda Duncan, Executive Director of the Mussel Industry Council. “They are rich in nutrients and ideal for entertaining and sharing with the whole family.”
Spring has arrived, and there is no better way to celebrate the return of the warm sun than to eat fresh foods, either at home or at the restaurant.
“Fresh blue cultivated mussels are cultured year-round, which means that they are always in season. Enhance their freshness by using Fresh Blue Cultivated Mussels as part of light, delicious recipes such as Mussel, potato, paprika and mint salad or the kid-friendly Crispy Blue Mussels,” suggests Council President, Brian Fortune.
Mussels are low in fat (2.2 g fat per 100 g mussel meat), high in Omega 3s, loads of protein and packed with high levels of daily requirements for zinc, vitamin C and iron. They are also recognized world-wide as sustainable seafood since they feed naturally with no additives and their seed is also collected naturally from the environment where they are grown.
An added bonus for families, the left-over shells can be used to make craft projects with the kids. Create a marine theme try decorating clean mussel shells with pastel-coloured paint and ribbon. Mussel shells can make handy place cards, a colourful centerpiece or mini, individualized candy dishes.
The Mussel Industry Council is a newly-established organization dedicated to promoting mussels in the United States and Canada. To discover more about mussels and the people who grow them, visit www.discovermussels.com.
Ready to try mussels, but aren’t sure how best to prepare the mollusk? Try this recipe from Knives Cooks Love: How to Buy, Sharpen, and Use Your Most Important Kitchen Tool (ISBN: 978-0-7407-7002-9).
Spicy Steamed Mussels with Fennel and Tomatoes
This punchy rendition of mussels in white wine offers a quick course on several cuts: slicing, dicing, mincing, and chiffonading. Serve the mussels with crusty bread for dipping into the peppery tomato broth, or ladle the mussels and broth over hot linguine. When buying mussels, ask the fishmonger for a bag from the refrigerator in back, which are often fresher than those in the front display.
Serves 2 to 3 as a main course
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 carrot
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 small tomatoes
- 10 to 12 large fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that do not close)
Trim the stalks from the fennel and cut a thin slice off the bottom; then core and cut the fennel into 1/4-inch crosswise slices (see page 119). Put the fennel into a large bowl. Cut the onion crosswise into ¼-inch semicircles (see page 95) and add to the bowl. Peel the carrot and cut into 1/4-inch dice (see page 109) and add to the bowl. Peel and mince the garlic (see page 100) and add to the bowl.
Core the tomatoes. Cut them in half through the equator and squeeze out the seeds. Cut them into ¼-inch dice (see page 127) and put them in a separate bowl. Cut the basil into chiffonade (see page 133) and reserve for the garnish.
Lightly crush the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, put them in a small self-sealing plastic bag. Using the bottom of a cast-iron skillet, lightly crush them. Transfer the spices to a small dish.) Add the salt and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy 6-quart or larger stockpot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, carrot, and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spice mixture. Add the wine and the tomatoes along with any juices in the bowl. Bring to a boil.
Add the mussels to the stockpot (don’t stir), cover, and steam until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Scoop the mussels into individual shallow bowls, discarding any that remain closed, and then spoon some vegetables and broth over them. Sprinkle each bowl with basil and serve immediately.
Preparing Fennel: Trimming, Coring, Slicing, and Dicing
If you’re braising or roasting fennel wedges, leave the core intact so it holds the fennel together. But for slicing or dicing, do cut away the core first. Lengthwise slices emphasize the vegetable’s tough and fibrous quality. Crosswise slices are more tender and juicy, and better for salads.
1 Cut off the stalks close to the bulb (save the fernlike fronds for a garnish, if you want). Trim off the hard base. If the outer layer isn’t too blemished or fibrous, leave it on. Otherwise, remove it and discard (or save for stock).
2 Cut the bulb into lengthwise quarters. Stand up one quarter on its base, or let it rest on the rounded side, and cut away the core. Repeat with the other three pieces.
3 Set the pieces on a flat side. Cut crosswise or lengthwise slices of the width you need. (For a dice, cut lengthwise slices and gather a few strips and cut across them.)