Guest Post: Mussels with Beer and Bacon

It’s Wednesday! Time for a guest post! Today’s recipe is courtesy of Lisa, one of my fellow Food Bloggers of Canada members.

Lisa writes One Cook, Two Kitchens blog, detailing her kitchen adventures between two different kitchens: a condo in downtown Toronto (She’s near the St Lawrence Market. I’m super jealous!), and her Lake House. She can also be found on twitter, at @onecook2kitchns, or on Facebook here.

A friend of mine, who loves to cook as much as I do, recently confided that she has never made mussels because she finds the idea of making them somewhat intimidating.

I get it. There is an elegant mystique about mussels to the uninitiated, particularly if you are from a part of the continent where shellfish is not readily available. Also, if you’ve ever had fishy tasting/smelling mussels, or tough, chewy mussels, you may be concerned that they are too easy to ruin.

The reality is that mussels are one of easiest dishes going. Once they are cleaned, you can have them cooked in minutes. There are infinite ways to prepare them. You can have them in a marinara or cream sauce, in a Thai curry coconut broth, or done very simply with beer or wine.

Today, I’m showing you how to make them with beer and bacon. The combination of the hops from the beer, with the sweetness of the onion, creates and irresistible broth. The next day, cold leftover meat pulled from the shells makes a delectable salad when combined with a lightly dressed salad. There will still be the faintest hint of the beer.

Mussels are also low in fat and high in nutrients. And they are relatively inexpensive. With a good loaf of bread, you can feed four people for $10-$12 (depending largely on where you live and the accessibility of fresh seafood).

Here’s a quick mussel primer:

• Raw mussels should smell like the ocean, not even remotely fishy.

• Find out which day of the week the mussels arrive at your grocery store/fish monger, and try to buy them on that day

• Keep newly purchased mussels at the bottom of your fridge (the coldest spot) in their packaging, which is usually a netted bag, and consume them as soon as possible.

• Clean mussels, first by putting them into a colander and running cold water over them, deliberately disturbing them by stirring them vigorously with your hands, then turn them into a sink full of water.

• Mussels are alive when you purchase them, so by disturbing them, they’ll open slightly. When you tap them on the counter, they should close back up tightly. If you encounter any shells that don’t close back up tightly, toss them out.

• Look for fuzzy little ‘beards’ on each mussel. Take each shell, check for this little bit of fuzz, and pull at it with your thumb and index finger. If it doesn’t release easily on its own, just snip it off with scissors.

• When mussels are cooked, the shells should be fully open – discard any that stay closed. It means that they were dead when they were cooked.

Make sure you indulge in the best quality bread you can get your hands on. You want to have the best possible bread to dunk into that delectable broth.

For serving as a main course, allow a pound of mussels per person.

Mussels with Beer and Bacon Recipe
Yield: 2 large servings as a main course

2 lbs mussels, cleaned and bearded
5 slices of side bacon, roughly diced
½ large onion, diced
½ bottle of beer (ale or lager works well, and bonus: you can drink the other half while you make the mussels!)
¼ cup of Italian parsley, chopped (optional for garnish)

In a large pot with a lid, sauté the bacon until it is crisp.

Add in the chopped onion, and cook until the onion is translucent.

Add in the beer, bring it to a full simmer.

Toss in the mussels, and give it a good stir.

Put the lid on, and cook for about 10 minute minutes. Go in every couple of minutes and give the mussels a good stir. The shells will start to open up. When all of the shells are fully open, they are done. (Discard any shells that did not open).

Ladle the mussels into large bowls, ensuring that each person gets lots of broth, and put out an additional empty bowl for the shells. If desired, sprinkle the chopped parsley on top of each bowl of mussels.

Put out thick slices of bread to sop up the juices (sourdough works nicely, but any fabulous fresh bread will do).

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