Archive for June, 2010

Pan-Roasted Mussels in Miso Broth


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was not always the omnivore I am today. There was a time when only hamburgers and rice were allowed to pass through these lips, and anything collected from the ocean was categorically forbidden. In a stunning example of mind over matter, however, at 20 years old I determined that fish were good for my health and thus I WOULD LIKE THEM. Beginning with steak-y fish like swordfish, tuna, and salmon, I gradually incorporated the entire classification. From there, mollusks made their debut — mussels leading the charge.

The appeal of mussels for me was really their connection to European culture (moules frites…mmm…), the obligatory slice of buttered and toasted bread served alongside, and the endless variety of delicious broths they swam in. My first experience was a tomato based broth laced with white wine, fennel, and plenty of garlic. To this day, it is my favorite preparation. Purists may prefer the simple white wine, garlic, shallots, and creme fraiche version, aka moules marinières. More adventurous souls have probably seen mussels served with curry or, as demonstrated below, miso. These Asian preparations are a wonderful diversion and can truly impress at a dinner party.

While you have to buy and cook your mussels the same day, you can make the base of your broth early, and your dinner party will come together in an astonishing 5 minutes — faster than it takes to toast your baguette! Also, this is a mussels prep that few people have tasted before: Bonus!

A note on mussels: don’t freak out or anything, but it is important to note that mussels can die between their moment of harvesting and when you are ready to cook. Nothing ruins the memory of a good dinner party like a bad shellfish, trust me! To eliminate these evil-doers, throw out any mussels in the bag that have broken or cracked shells. Mussels that are open and do not close tightly when rapped against the side of the sink or a countertop should also be tossed. After cooking, if you have a mussel that still hasn’t opened up in the heat of the pan, chuck it. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! Prevent mussels from dying on your watch by keeping them in a mesh bag on a bed of ice in your fridge. Do not suffocate them in a plastic bag, or you’ll end up tossing a ton of them.

Pan-Roasted Bouchot Mussels with Os, from the Momofuku Cookbook
(serves 4)

1/3 cup denjang, or shiro (white) miso
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbs. sliced scallions (greens and whites)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 lbs. mussels
1/4 c. grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 c. dry sake (use dry vermouth if you can’t find sake)

Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl of cold water and let them sit for a few minutes to purge any grit, then scrub their shells clean of any debris, and rip off the ‘beards’ — the little fuzzy strands sticking out of the side of the shells. Smash together the denjang, sherry vinegar, ginger, sliced scallions, and garlic cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a deep wide pot with a lid that will later comfortable accommodate all the mussels, and set over high heat. After a minute or so, when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the mussels. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the sake. Cover the pot and steam the mussels until they’ve all opened, about 4 minutes.

Remove the lid from the pot, scoot all the mussels to one side, and add the denjang mixture to the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Stir to incorporate it, which should happen rather quickly, then toss the mussels to coat them with the sauce and pan juices.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to four deep bowls. Discard any mussels that did not open. Pour the broth-sauce from the pot over the mussels, and garnish each portion with a heavy dose of black pepper and some of the julienned scallions. Serve at once.

June 9, 2010 at 3:13 pm 3 comments

Spring-y Saffron Chicken and Snap Peas

I am aware that this post is coming late: spring has long since sprung.  Morels, fava beans, and ramps – the heralds of the season in New England – have populated and then disappeared from the market shelves, making room for the first husks of sweet corn and mounds of heirloom tomatoes.  Nevertheless, I decided last night to peruse the “Spring” chapter of one of my favorite cookbooks with the aim of giving May a proper (though belated) send-off.

Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a truly wonderful volume for any cook who loves to entertain.  The recipes are elegant and intensely flavorful, though never overly complicated.  Their simplicity is juxtaposed brilliantly with their originality – I often ask myself, “why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?”  As an example, the meal I made last night involved thinly slicing sugar snap peas on the bias and sauteeing them quickly with onions and thyme, finished with saffron butter and lemon juice.  Surely, one need not prepare the snap peas this way to enjoy the delicious flavor combination, but I loved the way the peas separated from the pod, creating a varied texture and a far more interesting visual on the plate than the standard whole pod.

Another lovely feature of this cookbook is that it is organized around full meals.  For each season, Goin provides eight 4-course menus, including dessert.  I have had great luck cooking her recipes — her instructions are very clear and concise, and she always notes when some aspect of the meal can be done ahead.  Last night, I made just one course although it had three components: Saffron Chicken with Parmesan Pudding, Spring Onions, and Sugar Snap Peas.  RJ and I raved about the layered flavors of the chicken breasts, and I could not get enough of the green vegetables.  After an initially lukewarm reaction to the texture of the parmesan pudding, both of us came around to appreciating its subtlety when paired with the zesty chicken.  Only two things would have improved this meal: first, we should have listened to Suzanne Goin and used skin-on chicken breasts.  We missed the crispy goodness!  Second, in making this again I will definitely whip up a quick pan sauce to accompany the protein – why waste all those rich drippings?

Saffron Chicken, Spring Onions, and Sugar Snap Peas
Serves 6

1/2 tsp. saffron threads
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, separated
6 boneless chicken breasts, about 5 oz. each, skin on!
1 Tbs. thyme leaves, separated
2 Tbs. sliced flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, zested
3/4 lb. sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 c. sliced spring onions plus 1/2 c. sliced spring onion tops
4 oz. pea shoots

Toast the saffron in a small pan over medium heat until it just dries and becomes brittle. Pound the saffron to a fine powder in a mortar. Dab a tablespoon of the softened butter into the saffron powder, using the butter to scoop up about half the powder. Set aside.

Stir 4 tablespoons olive oil into the mortar, scraping with a rubber spatula to incorporate all of the saffron powder. Mix with 2 teaspoons of the thyme leaves, all of the parsley, and the lemon zest. Pour this into a large ziplock bag with the chicken breasts, coating the chicken well. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Swirl in 1 tablespoon olive oil and wait a minute. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan (you might need to cook the chicken in batches). Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Turn the breasts over, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook them a few more minutes, until just cooked through and springy to the touch. Transfer the chicken to a resting rack.

Return the pan to the stove over medium heat for a minute. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the sliced spring onions, sugar snap peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and the remaining teaspoon of thyme. Cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes stirring, until the onions are translucent. Add the saffron butter and 1 tablespoon water. Swirl the pan, and when the liquid comes to a simmer, toss in the pea shoots and onion tops. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and squeeze a little lemon juice over the vegetables. Taste for seasoning.

Arrange the chicken on a large warm platter and spoon the vegetables over it. Serve with the hot parmesan pudding.

Parmesan Pudding
(obviously this part of the meal is not gluten free)

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 3/4 c. whole milk
2/3 c. heavy cream
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 1/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat a medium pot over medium heat for 1 minute.  Add the butter; when it foams, whisk in the flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, and cook for about 5 minutes, being careful not to let the flour brown.  Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate it.  The butter and flour will seize up and get pasty at first.  Continue whisking vigorously as you add the liquid, and the mixture will become smooth.  Cook a few more minutes, until warm to the touch.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the egg and egg yolk together in a small bowl.  Slowly drizzle the eggs into the cream mixture, whisking continuously until combined.  Stir in the cheese, and season with a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Pour the mixture into a 8×6 inch (or equivalent) baking dish, and cover tightly with foil. [I used individual ramekins instead, and cut the cooking time to 40-45 minutes which seemed to do the trick!]  Place the baking dish in a roasting pan, and add hot water to the pan until it comes halfway up the outside of the custard dish.  Place the pan in the oven and bake about 1 hour, until the pudding is just set.

(You can make and bake the pudding ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered.  Bring it to room temperature about an hour before serving, and rewarm it in a 400 degree F oven, 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until it’s hot and begins to brown slightly around the edges.)

June 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm 4 comments


Search For Blogs, Submit Blogs, The Ultimate Blog Directory
Food & Drink Blogs - Blog Top Sites