Friday, 31 January 2014

Chef's Chiice Sushi at Japonais Bistro

My sister had been wanting to go for sushi for a while. It seemed like every time I asked her what she wanted for dinner, she suggested sushi. I like sushi well enough, but I certainly don’t crave it like she does. Especially not during the winter when the weather is cold and gloomy. To me, sushi is better as a light summer meal.

But then again, that could simply be because I always order sashimi. I suppose that could be another reason I am a bit less keen on sushi; Edmonton is not exactly the ideal city for good quality sushi. There are a lot of lower quality sushi joints in this city and the few that have higher quality, fresh sushi tend to be toward the pricey side of things.

That said, there are certainly a few good sushi restaurants. Izakaya Tomo has fantastic sushi among their other offerings. Mikado is always a good choice, as is Kyoto.

Japonais Bistro (pronounced za.po.ne, according to their website) is relatively new to Edmonton’s sushi scene. It’s located in the space previously occupied by One One Eight and, before that, Suede Lounge. The interior has been remodeled and is bright, open, with clean lines. There’s a clear view into the kitchen and a cute  park bench-style set-up on the raised seating area.

I had read some mixed reviews prior to going down there on a January evening with a friend who was visiting from Calgary. Some said it was disappointing and overpriced, others claimed it was the best new sushi place in town. Overall, I was impressed. The fish was fresh, the sashimi was buttery smooth, and the prices weren’t unreasonable. Although service on the evening we were there was only ok.

Oh, and as usual, the boyfriend complained that they didn’t have a dark enough beer for him. *eye roll* I wasn’t feeling particularly well that evening so I skipped my usual wine and opted for a pot of green tea. It was piping hot and very satisfying.


We all started with miso soup ($2.95). I always appreciate it when miso soup is included with the rest of the meal. It was your standard bowl of miso soup, good amount of tofu. I love the saltiness of miso soup! And it was served in the cutest little flower-printed bowls.

I ordered the jalapeno yellowtail ($16.95), salmon sashimi (6 pieces; $9.95), and yam tempura ($7.95), planning to share most of it with the table. Unfortunately, the yellowtail never arrived, but I was so full from everything else that it didn’t really matter. I was a bit disappointed because I tried the jalapeno yellowtail at the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival and it was perfect. But I really could not have eaten another bite.




The salmon sashimi was probably the best I have eaten in Edmonton. It was so buttery and fresh and cut to the perfect thickness.


The serving size of the yam tempura surprised me a bit – there was so much on that plate! It was perfectly crispy and piping hot. Really can’t go wrong there. It took all 4 of us to finish off that plate, though.






My sister and friend each got an assortment of various pieces of sushi and were very happy with the selection, price, and taste. The BBQ eel was apparently very tasty but the pieces were a bit on the small side.



We were all incredibly impressed when my sister’s volcano roll ($16.95) arrived at the table. It was beautifully presented to look like a volcano with the tobiko sauce and scallops tumbling down like lava. She devoured this roll and said it was absolutely delicious. I tried a couple pieces of scallop that had fallen off the “volcano” and was impressed by their texture and freshness.

Volcano Roll: hot spicy chopped scallops, squid, and tobiko
sauce over an avocado and eel roll ($16.95)

Chef's Chiice Sushi (6 pieces; $14.95)
Finally, the boyfriend went with the “Chef’s Chiice” sushi ($6 pieces; $14.95). This is likely a typo and should probably read “chef’s choice” on the menu but we all had a good chuckle. He was pleased with the assortment he received in the chef’s chiice selection as it was good opportunity to try a few different pieces of sushi.

Bakudan Roll: Spicy tuna with tempura bits ($8.95)
The boyfriend also ordered the Bakudan roll ($8.95), which was just a spicy tuna roll with tempura bits. It was nothing special; in my opinion the best spicy tuna roll hands down is at Tomo. This one had a good amount of spicy and the tempura bits added a nice little bit of crunch. Again, the plating was beautiful and showed a nice attention to detail. 



At the end of the night, we were all comfortably full and satisfied with all the sushi. Next time my sister wants to go for sushi, there is no doubt that we will be returning to Japonais Bistro. It’s so nice to find a restaurant serving fresh, quality sushi in Edmonton!

 --

Japonais Bistro
11806 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T5K 0N7
(780) 760-1616
www.japonaisbistro.ca/ 



Japonais Bistro on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Heavenly Pastries at Duchess Bake Shop

I have a confession to make. I love macarons. I love them so much I had them for breakfast on Saturday. Nothing else, just coffee and macarons. The night before I ate like 5 of them. Four days earlier I did the same. Maybe it's a problem. But they're mostly egg whites and that's protein, right?

At least that's what I tell myself.




When I was in Paris, I ate as many macarons as I could get my hands on. I have not tried making them (yet). I am signed up for a macaron making class with one of the girls I work with so stay tuned! There are more macarons in the future of this blog.


So, the best macarons in Edmonton? Duchess Bake Shop, hands down.


The best pastries in the city? Oh yeah, that goes to Duchess, too. The decor is so cute, the selection of pastries will have you buying 10x more than you ever think you could eat, the coffee is delicious. If you're like me you'll eat all of those pastries. Heck, I've even tried their open-faced sandwiches and they're great. I can honestly say I have never once had anything from Duchess that didn't live up to my expectations. 


Check out the beautiful Tarte Montreal. It's as delicious as it looks.


Tarte Montreal: 
Milk chocolate maple bourbon ganache, spiced
 caramel cream, apricot compote and candied almonds.

Next door is the Provisions by Duchess store, where you can buy bakeware, kits, tools, and they have a fantastic selection of ingredients. If you want speciality baking ingredients, this is the place to go in Edmonton. They have everything from candied rose petals to egg abumen, which is apparently a must have for stabilizing egg whites in macarons. 


Dark chocolate meringues

Speaking of meringue, buy a couple of the dark chocolate meringues. They are to die for! So light and sugary and fluffy with little bits of chocolate studded throughout. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I never leave without at least 3 of these. Same logic applies as the macarons as far as I'm concerned. 



I always get at least a couple dark chocolate macarons and a couple salted caramel. Their classic flavours don't really change but they always have different monthly features. This month was Mexican hot chocolate and buttered popcorn. Both flavours - Yum! Coincidentally, one of my friends brought some over for our girls night so we were eating buttered popcorn and buttered popcorn macarons. Perfect combo!

So, next time you want desserts, get yourself to Duchess. Your sweet tooth will thank you! 


ps - you should probably also get The Duke. Just sayin'



-- 


Duchess Bake Shop

10718 124 St NW, Edmonton
780.488.4999
http://www.duchessbakeshop.com




Duchess Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pho-tastic at Tau Bay

Tau Bay is one of our standard go-to restaurants in Edmonton. Living in a city where it is winter 8+ months of the year, nothing beats a hot, steaming bowl of pho. And let's be honest, it's basically just as good in the summer. 

#9 with iced vietnamese coffee


We've tried our fair share of pho in Edmonton and, like almost everyone else will tell you, the broth at Tau Bay is hands down the best. Aromatic, flavourful, not overly salty or greasy, it's perfect. The noodles are consistently good. The meat is always tender. The price doesn't hurt either! At just $9 for an XL bowl this place won't break your new year's resolution budget.



My standard order is an XL #9 (Steak, well-done flank, & brisket) and a coffee (iced coffee, condensed milk). Go ahead and oder the XL - you won't regret the few extra cents when you see that massive, steaming bowl come out from the kitchen. I never manage to finish mine, but the boyfriend always polishes off whatever I don't eat. The service is always quick and efficient so you won't be waiting long.


You'll get a heaping plate of bean sprouts, thai basil, lime wedges, and little chili peppers to add to your bowl as you like. My boyfriend dislikes bean sprouts for some weird reasons. My sister always orders her bowl with no onions (white or green). I like it all! Add in some hoisin, hot sauce, and/or chili oil as you like and dig in!


I adore the vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk; this is my fave. You have to be patient to let the coffee brew into the condensed milk but trust me, your 5-7 mins of patience is worth it! This coffee is the magical accompaniment to your pho. I also believe that the combination of pho and iced coffee can cure any hangover.

The decor may not be the most up-to-date, and it certainly isn't fancy. But this place is packed pretty much whenever it is open. On that note, be sure to check the is tau bay open website before you go! They tend to close randomly for weeks or even months at a time with absolutely no notice. And it doesn't seem to impact their loyal following of customers in the least. The website isn't affiliated with the restaurant.


It's also cash only and there are no ATM's, so make sure you have cash on hand. That said, we took my Mom there last weekend while she was in town, and it only set us back $45 including tax and tip for 4 XL bowls of soup and 2 iced coffees.

This has to be the top of my list for comfort food in Edmonton. As long as they are open, you should make the trek into Chinatown for some delicious pho!



--


Tau Bay


10660 98 St NW
Edmonton
(780) 421-0807


Tau Bay Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Recipe: Homemade Pizza

I was lucky enough to get a whole bunch of exciting kitchen things from Williams Sonoma for Christmas. One particular set of gifts, which the boyfriend very proudly declared "it has a theme!" included a beautiful Emile Henry pizza stone, pizza cookbook, and pizza cutter. I think he was hinting that I should make some pizza.


Meat & mushroom pizza

I decided to try out all the new pizza stuff while my Mom was visiting from Vancouver Island a few weekends ago. Since we had a busy day planned (including a trip to Tau Bay!) we opted to make the dough in my ancient bread maker. This bread maker used to belong to my mother and it is almost as old as I am. All the pizzas of my childhood originated from this bread maker. You could call it a tried and true pizza dough recipe.
Since I am sure no one reading this blog has an ancient hitachi bread maker sitting around, the dough recipe below is from one of my favorite blogs, Eat, Live, Run (check out her beautiful photos!) and can be made in your kitchenaid stand mixer! I've also included the recipe I use in the ancient hitachi at the bottom, in case anyone out there in the vast interwebs can use it. 


Roasted red pepper & goat cheese
We're a household of his & hers recipes. I love a good veggie pizza, something a bit lighter, whereas the boyfriend likes his loaded with meat, more meat, and double cheese. Add my Mom and sister into the mix, and we are still split right down the middle. So, what's a girl to do? Make two pizzas of course! The showdown was on: roasted red pepper with spinach and goat cheese pizza versus pepperoni, ham, bacon, and mushroom pizza

The verdict? Both were delicious. We did a slightly thicker crust with way more cheese on the meat pizza, thinner crust on the veggie pizza.

Also, the pizza stone was amazing! I definitely recommend investing in one if you don't already have one of these bad boys in your kitchen.


  


Homemade Pizza


Preheat-heat your oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, heat it up in your oven.


Pizza Dough


(Recipe from Eat, Live, Run)

Meat & mushroom

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 packet yeast (1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt



Directions

Combine the warm water and yeast in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Add in the salt and flour and mix on medium/high speed for about 5 minutes. As it is mixing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. 


Have a glass bowl ready to go with a little bit of olive oil in the bottom. When the dough is nice and soft and elastic, take it out of the mixer and rub it in the olive oil in the bowl and spread the olive oil around so that it coats the inside of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel and allow it to rise for an hour.



The main event: Making your pizzas!


The above recipe makes enough for two pizzas, as does my hitachi. Divide your dough.


I roll my dough out on cornmeal as opposed to flour. This way it doesn't stick to your pizza stone and it doesn't burn like flour does. 


Once you've assembled your pizza, slide it directly onto your very hot pizza stone. Bake at 450 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes. Allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving.



The Sauce


If you wanted, you could make your own slow-simmered-from-scratch pizza sauce, preferably with San Marzano tomatoes. But really, who has that kind of time? If you are one of the lucky few, I'm jealous! However, for most of us, that's not a reality.


I usually just grab a jar of plain old Hunt's tomato sauce or whatever looks good from the grocery store. Dice up a little bit of garlic and onion and saute in a touch of olive oil. Add some salt, pepper, dried oregano, and chili flakes (totally optional). Mix in the tomato sauce and simmer for 5-8 minutes. That's about as fancy as my tomato sauce gets.



The Veggie Pizza:



Roasted red pepper & goat cheese
  • 2 large red peppers, roasted (see below)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup fresh goat cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella/asiago blend

Roasted Red Peppers

Wash your red peppers and preheat your oven (I used my toaster oven to be honest) to about 425. Place the red peppers directly on the rack in your oven, with a cookie sheet covered in tinfoil below to catch any drippings. It will take about 35-45 minutes to roast your peppers, depending on their size. Turn them occasionally so that the skin blisters on all sides. 


Take the pepper out of the oven and place them in a bowl. Using a knife, pierce the skin of the peppers. Tons of moisture will come out. Once the peppers have cooled, peel off the skin and remove any seeds that didn't already ooze out. Slice the delicious roasted red peppers into thin slices for your pizza.



Meat & mushroom
The Meaty Pizza:

  • 1 cup ham, sliced
  • 1 cup pepperoni
  • 1/4 cup crumbled bacon
  • 1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups mozzarella/asiago




Tips for Assembling your Pizza

Once you've rolled out your dough, always start with the tomato sauce. Add a sprinkling of cheese next - this ensures the toppings won't slide right off your pizza! Raw onions should also be added right into the tomato sauce as it will help them cook. Then spread your toppings on however you would like. Mushrooms should be closer to the top, to ensure that they cook through as well. 


We like to sprinkle our pizzas with a little bit of chili flakes before baking, but this is just our personal preference. 


Making pizza at home is really the perfect opportunity to make something exactly the way you want it! The sky is the limit in terms of pizza toppings, sauces, and combinations. What are some of your favorite pizza toppings? 



--
Pizza Dough in the Hitachi Bread Maker

Place all ingredients in the bread maker and select dough - mine takes 1 hour and 40 minutes

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 1 tbsp yeast


Monday, 20 January 2014

Attractively Plated Brunch at Canteen

Sunday brunch has to be one of my all-time favorite meals. We often find ourselves heading out for a delicious brunch with good friends on Sundays around noon - what a perfect way to enjoy a leisurely meal with friends and without the exhaustion that we all seem to experience during the week. Believe it or not, sometimes being a lawyer wears you right out.

Why do I profess to love brunch so much? Two reasons: eggs benedict and mimosas. Take a good piece of salted pork, perfectly poached eggs, and smother them in buttery hollandaise sauce. Seriously, what could be better? And any opportunity to drink champers for me is a win.

This past weekend found us at Canteen with some of the best company. This is certainly not your Denny's or Cora's style breakfast! Welcome to the world of espresso-based drinks, brown sugar bacon, braised short ribs, and sausage gravy. 

It was consistently busy during our hour and half long brunch. I was glad to have made a reservation in advance as there were a few people lingering at the door waiting for a table. The bar was also full, both with diners and those waiting to be seated. We were directed to wait at the bar when we arrived. I ordered a delicious latte and the boyfriend had an americano. It wasn't quite a Credo latte, but it was much better than a Starbucks latte. My only small quibble would be that they only had whole milk. No skim or even 2% milk. They also have a few good beers on tap at their very attractive bar!


The Marty
In less than 10 minutes our table was ready. Our server took our jackets as we were seated, which was a nice touch. She also brought them back when we were ready to leave. 


The boyfriend was super excited to try "the marty" (1/2 pint of beer and 3 slices of brown sugar bacon, $8). It came to the table exactly as described: half a pint of granville winter ale topped with 3 slices of sugary bacon. The bacon was fantastic. It's hard to describe the sticky, salty, sweet, carmely, fatty goodness of this bacon. I'm not so sure about the beer pairing, but I'm fairly certain the boyfriend could have ordered 4 more rounds of this.




Between the four of us, we were able to try most of the mains on the menu.


Apple Marscapone Stuffed French Toast
First up, the french toast (Apple Marscapone Stuffed French Toast With Spiced Walnuts, Apple Cider Syrup, Berries And Sugar Bacon, $16). The plating alone is worth noting; the marscapone was beautifully piped in two ribbons on either side of the toast. My friend said this was absolutely delicious.


Truffle Grilled Cheese

The grilled cheese (Truffle Grilled Cheese With Grilled Scallion And Mushroom, Eggs, Chicken Apple Sausage, Hash Browns, $17) also received rave reviews, particularly paired with the house-made ketchup, which had lovely hints of curry.


The boyfriend went with the short rib skillet (Short Rib With Roasted Potato, Applewood Cheddar, Arugula, Caramelized Onion, Eggs, Toast, $18), which was served in a lovely cast iron skillet. The short rib was so tender and flavourful. The bite I tried didn't have any cheddar, but the potatoes and the egg made for a delicious combination!


Short Rib with Roasted Potato

Finally, I couldn't resist ordering the biscuits and gravy (Poached Eggs On Cheddar Chive Biscuit With Sausage Gravy, Chicken Apple Sausage, Hash Browns, $17). My eggs were poached to absolute perfection, with the yolks oozing out but the whites were cooked through. I loved the biscuits and the gravy. However, I wasn't the biggest fan of the chicken apple sausage. To be honest, I didn't really think it added anything to the plate. The hash browns, on the other hand, were crispy, salty, and fluffy on the interior. Yum! And the boyfriend was happy to eat the sausage. 
Poached Eggs on Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

This is certainly a brunch spot that we will be returning to time and again. Service was attentive but not hurried and the food was downright delicious. 

Make sure you reserve a table in advance! Canteen does OpenTable reservations which, if you've never used OpenTable, is super convenient. 

--

Canteen

10522 124 Street, Edmonton
(780) 485 6125
http://canteenyeg.ca 

Canteen on Urbanspoon


Friday, 17 January 2014

Recipe: French Onion Braised Chicken


In addition to my beautiful pizza stone, which I've used a number of time to make homemade pizza (recipes & photos coming soon), I was also fortunate enough to receive a le creuset grill pan for Christmas. Now, I had actually been coveting the cast iron skillet, but apparently the store was sold out when the boyfriend was doing his Christmas shopping. So he bought the wrong pan intentionally, planning that we would exchange it after Christmas for exactly what I wanted. But that way there would be something le creuset under the Christmas tree.


What I didn't expect when we went back a few days ago was that the store would be clearing out their marseilles blue le creuset stock. How lucky for me! I managed to snag my cast iron skillet and my dream le creuset dutch oven!! I have literally been drooling over these babies for years, but just couldn't justify the $400+ price tag. I have literally been drooling over these babies for years, but just couldn't justify the $400+ price tag. This has to go down as one of my very most favourite kitchen purchases, second only to my kitchenaid stand mixer.

Obviously I needed to find a recipe immediately to christen my new stoneware asap. This was high priority. I finally settled on this Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyere recipe, in part because I had pretty much all of the ingredients on hand. Make sure you check out the link to the original recipe - her photography is ah-mazing! (much better than the photos I've got on here.. but practice makes perfect)


Naturally, I needed to make some fresh crusty bread to go with it. That will be a separate recipe post.



I made a few modifications to the original recipe to work with our preferences and what was in my kitchen. I used chicken drumsticks instead of thighs and upped the broth because we like lots of liquid to go with our crusty bread! As well, I used a horseradish dijon mustard just for a kick of spice. I had asiago and mozzarella kicking around from all the pizza adventures. Next time perhaps I'll add some mushrooms for a little extra meaty-ness. 




This is definitely a recipe I will be making again and again. My sister is not much of a fan of onions but she described them as "caramelized goodness" and helped herself to seconds. The boyfriend declared this to be his favourite meal that I've made in a very long time. Not sure if that means I have been slacking off and cooking some sub-par meals, but it was pretty darn tasty. He actually put the little remaining broth and onions in a container "for tomorrow" - whatever that means. The chicken, originally looking a little on the freezer burnt side, was fall off the bone tender and juicy. And that broth!

Oh, and in case you were wondering - the dutch oven? Amazing. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.


French Onion Braised Chicken

(Recipe from The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large white onions, thinly sliced 
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 
  • 3 small sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary 
  • 1 container chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons horesradish dijon mustard
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozarella/asiago cheese blend

The ingredients listed are just guidelines. Use whatever you have on hand or whatever your family likes best. Any good melting cheese would work with this. I'm sure swiss would be delish (I crack myself up!) or a cheddar/mozza blend. Really, it's all going to melt down into the caramelized onions and chicken anyway. In terms of chicken, next time I think I would use boneless skinless things instead of the drumsticks. You could use chicken breasts as well, just be sure to adjust your cooking time.


Directions


In your favourite deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions to your melted butter and stir them around to ensure they are all coated in the melted butter. Season generously with salt and pepper, depending on the salt level in your chicken stock and if you are using salted or unsalted butter. If you've got a reduced sodium stock and unsalted butter, add a little more to your onions. Full sodium and salted butter? Cut back a bit. You get the idea.


You're going to cook the onions low and slow for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Low or medium low heat will do for this stage. I used my new cast iron skillet and it worked beautifully!




After about 40ish minutes, the onions will have turned a nice, even beige colour. Add your garlic, thyme, and sprig of rosemary and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring frequently. Up the heat to high and cook for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir frequently as the onions turn a darker brown. When they are getting quite dark, slowly pour in about half the container of chicken stock. As you pour in the stock, use your spoon to scrape up all the good bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring the stock up to a light simmer for about 5 minutes.


Meanwhile, during the onion cooking process, you can be doing double-duty and getting your chicken seared off as well! Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F somewhere in this time, too.


Heat up a teaspoon of olive oil in your dutch oven over medium high heat. Pat the chicken drumsticks dry with a paper towel and season lightly with salt, pepper, and a touch of paprika. Place the drumsticks skin-side down in the hot dutch oven, being careful not to crowd the pan. Allow the skin to get crispy and brown, about 3-4 minutes, before turning them over. Sear the other side (again about 3 mins) then remove from the heat. The chicken won't be cooked through at this point, and that's fine.




Add the rest of the chicken stock to the pan, still over medium high heat. Make sure you use your spoon to scrape up all the good browned bits from the bottom of this pan as well. Once the stock comes up to a simmer, whisk in the mustard and balsamic vinegar. I added some chili flakes here as well, totally your call.  



Allow the liquid to simmer in your dutch oven for another 5 minutes or so, long enough to reduce a bit. Pour the pan of onions and stock into the dutch oven and nestle the chicken in with all the onions. You want lots of broth in there! Don't worry if it looks soupy, I promise it will be delicious.





Cover and bake at 325F for about 40 minutes. Make sure you are using an oven proof dish and lid!



After 40 minutes, remove it from the oven and sprinkle all that cheese on top. Turn your oven on to broil and place it back under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Serve hot with lots of crusty bread. Don't expect there to be any leftovers!



What could be more important than a little something to eat?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Recipe: Steamed Mussels in White Wine

My love of mussels has become a sort of inside joke amongst all my girlfriends. Whenever we go out for girls nights, if there are mussels somewhere on the menu, you can bet that I am ordering them. 


One of our favorite restaurants for our Thursday night tradition, Hundred Bar & Kitchen, has sadly changed their menu and drink specials. They used to have one of the best incarnations of steamed mussels; they were large and plump and served in a garlic and Gorgonzola cream sauce accompanied by perfectly seasoned fries. Hello delicious! What could be better than cream, garlic, and cheese, with fries on the side? Now they have a beer-steamed version with a house-made chorizo. It's a bit too bitter for my taste. The house made chorizo is dry, crumbly, and bland, and this dish is served with a pathetically dry piece of focaccia. Sad, sad day. On a side note, Hundred still continues to serve the most delicious mound of truffle fries topped with a massive amount of shaved Pecorino cheese. If you hadn't caught on yet, cover anything with cheese and I am in!


Steamed mussels
When I was in Belgium and France with a friend a few years ago, we ordered moules frites almost every day. The French do their mussels right! And of course, if you ask me, one of the very best ways to enjoy mussels is in the classic French style: steamed with white wine and lots of garlic. 

My love of wine is no secret. I always have at least a few bottles stashed around my apartment and chilling in the fridge. Some of the best advice I ever read about cooking with wine is this: don't cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink. Seriously good advice! I'm not saying you need to use a $45 bottle of sauvignon blanc, but don't use that cheap, cloudy-looking bottle that someone's spouse brought to your Mom's Christmas party two years ago either.

We have started buying the vacuum-packed 2.72 kg packages of mussels from Costco to satisfy my love of mussels at home. For just $12.99, this is a fantastic price! You get a ridiculous amount of mussels for less than the price of that delicious dish of mussels at your favorite restaurant. We always get at least 2+ meals out of this package or manage to feed 4 people. That accounts for my boyfriend's bottomless pit of a stomach as well. Pick up some good bread (or better yet, make it yourself) and a couple bottles of wine and you are set for a Saturday night at home.




Steamed Mussels in White Wine


Ingredients


For the mussels...



  • Fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded (see instructions below)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/3 bottle of white wine (I like sauvignon blanc) *save the rest to enjoy with your meal!
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes

For the bread...
  • Fresh bread (I use the demi ciabatta loaves from costco)
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

*Note: I use half of the 2.72 kg costco vacuum-sealed package of mussels for this recipe. It comes divided into two attached packages, so I use one for this recipe and save one for making pasta the next night. Don't open the vacuum pack until you are ready to use them.



How to clean and de-beard mussels


Make sure your sink is clean before you start. Fill your sink about 1/4 full of cold water. Gently pour the mussels into the sink. Be careful as you do not want to damage them. Allow them to sit for at least half an hour, 45 minutes is even better. During this time they are sucking in the clean water and expelling sand. You'll see the sand collect at the bottom of your sink.



Clean mussels ready to be cooked
Pick up each individual mussel and give them a quick rinse in cold tap water. Discard any that appear damaged, cracked, broken. or just don't quite look right. If they are open, gently tap on them with a utensil. If they start to close back up, they are fine. If they stay open, discard them.

If the mussel has a "beard" on it (green stringy stuff hanging out of it), grab the beard as close to the shell as possible and gently pull on it to remove. If it is not easily dislodging, move the beard back and forth to allow the shell to basically slice it. 

Place each clean mussel in a bowl with about 1 inch of water in the bottom. 


Cooking Directions


Make sure you have a large, heavy pot with a fitted lid. A glass lid works best because you can watch the mussels steam without having to lift the lid, allowing the steam to escape. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees to toast your bread.


In the bottom of your pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil with 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. You can omit the chili flakes altogether if you're not a fan of heat or add more depending on your tastes.





Saute the onions until translucent and add the garlic. Allow the garlic to cook for about 1 minute.


Pour in about 1/3 of a bottle of your white wine and allow it to come to a simmer, about 1 minute.





Gently pour the mussels into the pot along with the water from the bottom of the bowl. Increase to medium-high heat. Cover with your glass lid and allow the mussels to steam, gently shaking the pot once or twice.





Resist the temptation to open that lid and peek inside the pot! The mussels should slowly pop open from the steam, taking about 5-6 minutes. 


Take your pot off the heat and transfer the mussels to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard any that did not open. Top with your diced cherry tomatoes.






This next step is entirely gratuitous, you could just pour all the broth right over the mussels and enjoy it right then and there.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a smaller pot and pour the liquid from the bottom of your mussel pot into the butter pot. Pour slowly, leaving behind some of the sand that has settled at the bottom of the pot. You can discard that.

Let the broth come to a boil and reduce, about 2-3 minutes. Pour over the steaming bowl of mussels and enjoy with crusty bread and some more white wine!


Steaming up my camera!

Bread

The most important thing is that the bread is fresh and crusty. Beyond that, do as you want with your bread.

I like to buy the demi ciabatta loaves at costco and toast them in the oven with some olive oil. This is totally unnecessary, but here's how we like our bread. I do this while the mussels are steaming on the stove.

Mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with dried oregano.

Slice the ciabatta loaves in half and brush with olive oil and oregano. Lightly sprinkle with pepper and just a pinch of sea salt.



Toast at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Use the bread to sop up all of that delicious broth!