For dinner last night, I decided to make one of Doug's favorite dishes for him, mussels. I had never made mussels, but the recipe that I selected made it sound doable and not too stressful. I followed a recipe from my all time favorite, Ina Garten aka. The Barefoot Contessa. Along with the mussels, I made homemade bread, saffron rice with green peas and heart-shaped apple pies! The most time-consuming was the dough for the bread and the pies. Not because it was a lot of hands-on work, but because there is a lot of down time in between the prep and the baking.
I chose to make a whole wheat baguette, and while they didn't look quite like a baguette one would buy in a store, they tasted pretty yummy! Initially, the dough looked really runny, but I forged ahead with the contingency plan in place to run next door to grab a loaf, if they didn't firm up. The bread was the perfect accoutrement to the mussels, especially for soaking up the delicious juices!
I decided to make saffron rice, as the recipe I selected for the mussels called for saffron and thought it would be a great way to marry the two recipes and tie the menu together. I used arborio rice (but you can use any rice you have on hand, or one that your prefer) and cooked it according to the directions on the package. Once finished, I added some uncooked, thawed, peas and the saffron, and voila!
Now, I had never made mussels before, so wasn't sure what to expect. The recipe called for 3 lbs, but I ended up bringing home closer to 2 lbs. Truth be told, I didn't read the recipe all of the way through before buying the mussels, but only read the list of ingredients to ensure that I didn't forget anything!
I purchased the mussles at Whole Foods and they were $3.99/lb. I'm not sure if that's a decent price for mussels, as I've never purchased them before, but seemed reasonable. The gentleman behind the counter handed me a bag and let me select my own, which I was pretty excited about literally hand-selecting our dinner (Ah, it really is the little things!)
I got them home, and soaked them in a flour/water mixture for 30 minutes, about an hour before we had planned to sit down and eat. I let them dredge in the water as I tended to the bread and the pies. It was only THEN that I throughly read the recipe... "Discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut." Whoops.
I'm not sure if some opened on the way home or if I selected mussels whose shells were partially open, but I didn't want to chance either of us getting sick, so I ended up throwing away any mussel whose shell was even slightly cracked open - which, in the end, was roughly half of them. And we were down to 1 pound.
I followed this recipe from Ina Garten, substituted the wine for vegetable broth and they turned out great! The shallots and garlic were aromatic and filled the kitchen with a really yummy scent, while they were steaming. For such a fancy looking dish, it really was quite easy and one that I will make again. It's perfect for an appetizer or a light dinner (but, keep in mind, that we only had 1 pound between the two of us!)
I made these adorable heart-shaped pies last year, and went ahead and made them this year again, serving as our Valentine's Day tradition! I purchased the pie mold from Williams-Sonoma, but it looks as if they no longer carry that particular shape. They do have an apple-shaped mold and a lattice shaped mold, which are the same idea, different shape, all fun!
Before carrying the food to the table, we drizzled some of the liquid from the mussels onto the rice, and it made a huge difference. All in all, the food was delicious, but it was the company that I enjoyed the most! If you enjoy mussels, I recommend this recipe for any day of the week, as it's light, simple and delicious!