Handling mussels, like handling all seafood, is kind of freaky. You wonder what they’re thinking the entire time you’re walking home from the fishmonger. Shell-shocked? Absolutely panic-stricken? After all, the last week or so had to have been the most harried of their lives—being forcibly removed from their homes, plunked onto a bed of ice, removed from the bed of ice, and tossed carelessly into a plastic bag.
I guess I have the tendency to personify bivalves, crustaceans, and all gill-bearing creatures. In one instance, they’re the weird creepy-crawly organisms you study in biology class, living in their watery ecosystems like citizens of another planet. In another, they’re dinner. On your plate, deveined, cracked, peeled, sometimes deep-fried (if you’re lucky!), and dispersed among plates. And somewhere along the way, you’re responsible for this transformation.
Can you tell I’m not used to handling seafood?
I feel like I should apologize. I’m the worst marketing writer ever. Because how am I supposed to convince you to make this recipe when you’ve now got the image of death-by-steaming on your mind?
Because seafood is delectable, that’s why. And I was quickly able to overcome lay aside my misgivings once the sauce was heartily boiling away, and again later upon uncovering the pot and being smacked in the face by the briny, wine-y aroma of fresh-steamed mussels.
So here’s what, people: steaming your own mussels is not only incredibly easy, but also wonderful in the way only home-cooked meals can be.
For our last lunch in Montauk, we decided to order a heaping plate of steamed mussels served in an uber-creamy, uber-buttery sauce that was so delicious, we ate way more bread than we intended and ended up spoiling our appetites for dinner. With that meal in mind, I decided to try reproducing its decadence a few days later. I steamed three pounds of mussels in a creamy white wine sauce that was simultaneously soul-satisfying but also heavy beyond belief. So, because I wanted more mussels but less cream, I decided to veer in a lighter direction, and go with a spicy tomato-based sauce full of flavor but not fat.
I hate to make it sound like diet food. It’s not. Because you have to serve the mussels with lots of crusty bread to sop up the sauce. Or you could serve it atop pasta and feel a very balanced meal taking shape.
First, though, overcome your mussel-handling fears. At least it’s not a lobster.
Chris and I went to Montauk for the long weekend, and when we arrived home, we found out that our Internet modem was “out of signal” and the earliest that Time Warner can send a repairman is Friday. FRIDAY. That translates to about 5,000 years by web standards.
The sad fact is, I am hopelessly reliant on the Internet. Without it within finger’s reach, a lot of my daily processes have come to a screeching halt. Like blogging. And emailing. Pinning. Uploading. Researching. Entertaining. I mean, what do we not do using the Internet these days?
No matter. Life must go on.
About my weekend, here’s my two cents: unless you’re prepared to eat at the same two restaurants for six meals in a row, don’t go to tourist spots during off season. Montauk was dead. And cold. And, we decided to take the Hampton Jitney, thinking it would be way more economical than renting a car, and ended up spending an exorbitant amount on taxi rides because apparently, everything’s not walkable like I’d previously thought.
Again, no matter. It was fun despite everything, and we got our fill of seafood (the seafood bruschetta at Harvest on Fort Pond is REALLY good—highly recommended). But once again, we were hit by the fact that, out here, the seasons are a serious force to contend with. In California, where the weather is about the same year round, there’s no reason not to take a break from reality and drive out to some middle-of-nowhere town at any time in the year. And that’s exactly what Chris and I would do, often.
I made this monkey bread in preparation for the trip. Chris perked up like a little boy when I took it out of the oven, although the smells emanating from the kitchen had already set off a Pavlovian response far earlier.
Come to think of it, who wouldn’t perk up at the sight of monkey bread? It’s part cinnamon roll, part donut hole, and baked in a Bundt pan so it looks pretty to boot. Chris ooh’d and aah’d when I tipped it out of the pan, and hovered nearby as I drizzled the glaze over the top. And when I pulled a piece off to demonstrate how fun it was to eat, he eagerly joined in. I think monkey bread brings the inner child out of all of us.
With the glaze, it’s quite decadent, but I liked it for that fact. I don’t give myself the opportunity to indulge in sugary breakfasts often, so I’ll take whatever excuses I can get.
We enjoyed it the last few mornings with coffee (luckily, we were able to find one cafe in town that was open. Don’t know how I would’ve coped without the precious liquid), plucking pieces off in their perfect bite-sized units.
And outside, the howling wind whipped our little finger of land, heaving snow dust everywhere and freezing the ocean surf.
The Year of the Snake, true to its nature, slithered in stealthily. Since I’ve been so busy lately, it almost caught me unaware, but I did manage to prepare a dinner on Sunday night comprised of four, that’s right, FOUR Chinese dishes to eat alongside rice. That’s a record for me. (I couldn’t have done it without help, of course.) (Thanks Chris.) (Afterwards, he and I reclined on the couch and watched Joy Luck Club, a fact I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, but I ended up being moved anyway. Sigh.)
Moving forward, Valentine’s Day is on Thursday! What?! When did mid-February creep up on us? The problem with the month is that it’s way too short, so that my birthday at the beginning of March always seems to strike suddenly and without notice. Yup. It’s official. Time speeds up the older you get.
Let’s not talk about this upcoming birthday anymore—I don’t want to be reminded that I’m careening through my late-20’s like a human cannonball. Instead, let’s shift the conversation over to cookies, chocolate cookies to be exact. (FYI: chocolate is an aphrodisiac, hint hint.)
Today’s recipe came to me courtesy of Carey, who blogged about these beauties not three weeks ago. She got the recipe from the Blue Bottle Coffee recipe book, which should be enough reason for you to make these, immediately.
If you do, however, use peanut butter chips like I did, the cookie’s name changes entirely. It can no longer technically be called Blue Bottle’s double chocolate cookie—maybe I’ll call it Blue Bottle’s Reese’s peanut butter cups cookies instead? But its nature remains very much the same—it’s a dense chocolatey cookie, crackly and chewy both at the same time. I love how the coarse salt punctuates the dough, like exclamation points in otherwise seductive prose. And did I mention that peanut butter is an aphrodisiac? Don’t quote me on that.
I will certainly have to make the official recipe soon, but for my Valentine, peanut butter chips are the way to go.