Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fast Food

Let's be honest. At the end of a long day, few people fantasize about spending hours in the kitchen to produce a desirable dish. I actually don't mind spending several hours slaving over a hot stove to produce an amazing meal, but after I've been slaving away at my desk for even more hours, it seems like punishment. But I can only take so much take-out in one week. So I'm always looking for true 30-minute meals—prep included. My go-to dish of late has been mussels.

I didn't grow up on mussels. I don't even know where I was the first time I had them. Maybe in Europe? But what I do recall was the wonderfully garlicky broth and the polka dots of parsley scattered about. I was amused by the mound of shells presented to me and I enjoyed the purposeful task of fishing the meat out with a tiny fork. There was some satisfaction in it. And it was a helluva lot easier than picking crab meat, which was the standard shellfish of my youth. Over the years, I've been exposed to many variations on the traditional French white wine preparation, and rarely have I had one that I didn't genuinely enjoy. My favorite might be a Spanish interpretation with tomatoes, paprika and chorizo. Ahhhh, just thinking about it transports me to my favorite country. All that's missing is a nice glass of Grenache!

But this week I whipped up a beautiful rendition with crème fraîche, jalapeños and cilantro. It was some kind of Mexican, Thai and French ménage à trois. While that may sound like a whacky combination, the ingredients married so well together. It was both refreshing and richly comforting. And it came together in minutes. Seriously. It's like the perfect lazy man's meal. I would have no qualms entering the kitchen after a brutal day at the office and happily throwing this together. It's also dummy proof, which is great if you're feeling brain-dead by the end of the day like I usually am.

Mussels with Crème Fraîche, Jalapeños and Cilantro
from Food & Wine

4 thick slices of white peasant bread
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 garlic cloves (1 left whole and 1 thinly sliced)
1 medium shallot, minced
2 Tbsp thinly sliced pickled jalapeños
salt and fresh ground pepper
4 lbs mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
1 1/2 cups bottled clam broth (or juice works too)
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Preheat the broiler. Brush the bread with olive oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Broil the bread a few inches from the heat, turning once, until golden and toasted. Lightly rub the whole garlic clove over the toasts.
2. In a large, deep pot, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the shallot, sliced garlic and jalapeños, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the mussels and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the clam broth, cover and steam the mussels until they open, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to 4 deep bowls, discarding any mussels that do not open.
3. Add the crème fraîche and cilantro to the broth, swirling and shaking the pot until combined. Stir in the lime juice. Slowly pour the broth over the mussels and serve with the garlic toasts.


  1. Love this post. Your writing about mussels is so perfect, I want to get some mussels myself anf make it right this moment!

  2. Chris will love this one. Great post Hols. I'm looking forward to making this soon.