Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Papa Slaghoople's Mussels and Prawns!

Well, Wilma, you inspired me to share with you and your readers in Bedrock my easy to make recipe of mussels and prawns. I use the word prawn simply to emphasize that little shrimps just won't do for this recipe. Get the big ones, go ahead, everyone will be impressed. Little shrimps will get lost in this dish. Head-on with shells would be best but a little disgusting to look at. Napkins are also a must. This is finger food or close to it. Oh yes, friends are a must as this makes a lot. You can of course scale it down as needed but more friends sharing this make it even better.

You will need a few things. I already covered the BIG shrimps (remember?). Get mussels. Green farmed ones will be just fine but there are also other varieties that will work. The important point is that they must be alive and fresh. Nothing dead. Test them by running them under cold water. If they begin to close up then they are keepers. If they are already closed then it's ok as well. If the shell is broken just give it up and toss in the trash. A bad mussel will make you pretty sick so be careful! Keep them on ice until you are ready to cook.

Start by sautéing onions (2 - 4 medium to large, diced small) in a large heavy pot, both red and Vidalia's in the summer are great. Cook them until transparent with an assortment of green, red, and yellow peppers, all cut up into pretty small pieces with perhaps 1 to 2 tasty summer tomatoes (small ones). Use butter (the more the better - about a 1/4 cup = 1 stick unsalted for 4 lbs mussels and 2-3 lbs shrimp) and maybe a little olive oil. Don't cover the pot, you don't want to steam this mixture and you certainly don't want to burn it so watch the pot. Oh yes, I forgot one key ingredient: smoked bacon. Not some wimpy tofu vegi want-to-be stuff but the real thing, thick cut with a lot of taste (e.g. fat). Use as much bacon as you want (maybe 4 - 10 strips of the good thick kind) - nothing besides cheese makes food taste as good as bacon. You could also add smoked salmon instead of bacon but remember that it will get lost (disintegrate) in the mix although you will be able to taste the smokiness. Again, you just want all this stuff to be barely cooked and the onions just turning transparent. Add 2-4 cloves of diced garlic if you have it but make sure that it does not burn. It should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes to prepare this mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a few red pepper flakes for zing.

Now you will need some kind of broth. Probably vegetable stock will do or fish stock that you might have on hand would be a good thing to use as well. The point is that you need some liquid with taste. Bullion works also. Prepare 2 cups total and add 1 cup of this to the pot. Let it all heat up to almost a boil, stirring as needed. Keep the other cup of broth aside in case you need it (more on this later).

OK. This is where you add the prawns and mussels. Just throw the prawns into the pot, stirring frequently. It will not take long for them to turn pink. Maybe 3 - 5 minutes. When all of them have begun to turn color add the mussels. Cover the pot and leave it alone for about 2 - 5 minutes on medium heat. Check the pot and stir. If the mussels are not all open then cover it again and wait a few minutes (maybe even 1 is enough). When all of them are open you know that it is almost ready.

At this point add about 1 to 2 cups of heavy cream, pre-warmed is best but cold will do - you just have to heat it longer. No light anything. The fattier the better. Stir the cream into the seafood/onion-stuff mixture. This should be close to a boil. Be careful - you don't want to curdle or burn the cream.

Add about 1/4 cup of cognac or brandy. Pernot would also be fine but in this case I would skip the smokey bacon or salmon. Simmer but not long. If it looks like there is not going to be enough liquid then you can add some more of the broth and heat. The liquid is part of the meal so you want an ample amount for the folks to sop it all up with French bread.

Add goat cheese. Yes, pull it apart in clumps and add it to the pot. This adds flavor and thickens the liquid just a little. Trust me. Again, smoked bacon, cheese, cognac make this thing special. Add to the liquid additional salt/pepper to taste.

If you want you can now pour the entire mess into a serving dish or just use the pot you cooked it in. Add clumps of goat cheese again but don't mix it in. Eventually it will melt anyways. Top the dish with a bunch of chopped fresh green herbs such as basil and cilantro.

Serve it with the bread - large loaf pulled apart or cut into slices. I'd get 1 to 2 loaves for this dish. Also, very cold Vodka or white wine is great with this. I tried out a new Russian vodka flavored with marsh berries (similar to cranberries) which was delicious. I think you know where it came from - can't buy it here in the USA.

Plates are optional. People eat out of the pot and share. You need a dish or something to throw the empty shells. Cold summer salads are a good accompaniment but in this case you need plates. Desert should be fruity. You can probably serve 4 - 8 with this recipe. Calorie count? high. Taste factor? Worth it.

A great summer dish that won't disappoint. Best to Fred.


1 comment:

  1. As one of the four folks who got to eat this meal, I can tell you it was wonderful- flavorful but not overwhelming so well balanced. The salad with fresh blackberries and toasted almonds was a nice side note as was the cold white bean salad.