Mussels are your friend


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I used to be allergic to shellfish. Or, at least I think I was. The first time I tried shellfish was when my father and I were on a trip to Texas and I had some fried scallops. Maybe I should have been old enough to realize that eating seafood in the desert was a bad idea, but I was only 8 at the time and wasn't yet thinking about the source of the food I was eating.

I ended up in the emergency room because I was projectile vomiting and feverish. A few hours later I was fine, but after several more experiences like that one, over the next three or four years, I swore off mollusks entirely and only rarely ate shrimp.

Twenty years later I was feeling more daring and decided to explore the precise parameters of my allergy. I started eating larger and larger amounts of other people's mollusks, and since I wasn't showing any signs of vomiting, I eventually ordered my own serving of mussels.

Now, I had never ever had mussels, and never known that many people who liked them, so I was unprepared for the excellent taste and texture. Meaty and tender, with a flavorful broth chock full of garlic? Count me in!

It rarely occurs to me to cook mussels on my own, but I'd like to change that. They're an affordable and nutritious meal, and surprisingly versatile. Two pounds of mussels at my local fishmongers (Kim's) runs about $5, and that's more than enough for Hil and I.

Here's what you do:
  • 2 lbs Mussels
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 large shallots, diced fine
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Melt the butter over medium heat in a stockpot or a saucepan large enough to hold all the mussels. Add the oil and stir to combine. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots and garlic are softened and fragrant.

Add the white wine and the mussels and cook until most of the mussels are open. The cooking time is going to vary, but it should take 6-10 minutes.

Take out the mussels and set aside. Add the cream, stir to combine, and pour the liquid in the saucepan through a strainer into a bowl for serving alongside the mussels.

I like to dip the mussels in the sauce before eating, but your mileage may vary. Oh, and definitely have crusty bread on hand for dipping. Your guests will thank me.