Nigella Lawson was my first chef crush. I loved watching her show, Nigella Bites. Even though I had a tiny kitchen at the time, I would meticulously try to reproduce her mushy peas, rare beef, and béarnaise sauce. YUM!
Now I have a crush on dozens of celebrity chefs (Valerie Bertanelli, Mario Batali, Peter Kuruvita...) but I often find Jacques Pepin to be the best when it comes to teaching his audience how to create a dish. He made steamed mussels on an episode and it looked so easy. I tried the recipe myself (with a few alterations) and guess what - making mussels IS simple and fulfilling. You just have to follow basic steps.
1. First, put the mussels in a bowl of cold water. Leave them in the bowl, changing the water often, for up to an hour, but at least 20 minutes. (They will begin to release grit and sand into the bowl.)
2. While the mussels are soaking, chop onions, celery, and garlic. (I had leeks on hand and used those instead of onions.)
3. Next, pour olive oil into a large, deep pan and turn on the burner to heat the oil. Add above chopped ingredients to the pan and sauté on medium heat. (I add a tablespoon of water to the pan when I put the ingredients in so that the4 garlic is less likely to burn.)
4. As the ingredients cook (for approximately five minutes), scrub the mussels with a brush to remove any debris. They usually come with the "beard" already removed but if there are hair-like things on the mussels, clip them off with kitchen shears.
5. Pour approximately 1 cup of dry white wine into the pan. The pan should be hot enough that you hear a "sizzle" when the wine goes in. Allow the alcohol to cook off for two minutes and add warm vegetable or chicken stock. Allow the liquid to a simmer.
6. Add the clean mussels to the pot and put the lid on.
7. Stir the mussels after three minutes, or, as the professionals do, hold the lid on and shake the pot.
8. Check the mussels after letting them cook for two more minutes. When they open up, they are ready to eat! Put the mussels in a shallow bowl and pour the broth over the mussels. Season with salt and pepper as needed, top with fresh parsley, and serve with garlic bread.
To me, this is such a satisfying dish with a rich aroma. If you use vegetable stock that is fat-free and low sodium, this is also a fairly low-calorie meal with abundant flavor. It is also impressive to guests (make sure there are no allergies) and about $3.99 for a pound of mussels. Enjoy!