Sometimes we have days that are rotten. Possibly not for any particular reason – or maybe for multiple reasons built up over a number of days or hours. Terrible, down right, miserable days. Days where you’re sure that even the dog across the street is out to get you, and he’s giving you the stink-eye as you walk by the yard. Days where you get to work and realize you have a giant coffee stain on your “inner thigh” and that’s probably why your co-workers were avoiding you. Days when you get bad news and don’t know how to deal with it. I always find that on days like this I crave quality time with my husband and some comfort food. (FYI Mom: I am okay – nothing bad happened, just having a “no particular reason” kinda bad day)
For some people comfort food conjures up images of meaty layers of pasta in a lasagna or onion-rich pot roast with buttery mashed potatoes. Other heavy dishes such as mac-and-cheese or loaded burgers may come to mind. All no doubt lovingly prepared by your mother and/or grandmother throughout your childhood. I’ll admit my comfort foods do not mirror these typical ones, many being a bit “lighter” and non-traditional than those loved by most (although I’m not one to say no to the above dishes). However, a good number of my comfort foods do remind me of my mom and family. My brother and I were lucky children who had parents that made us “try everything once” and didn’t keep any food from us since it was “adult food” and too expensive for kids to enjoy. We got to eat whole lobsters, oysters, liver and other offal, and any ethnic food they were eating. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us kids to try at least once. Lucky for our parents, once we got over our fear of onions, animal fat and mushrooms, my brother and I were not picky eaters. Or maybe that wasn’t lucky for them: seeing as they had to share their food with us.
Because of this exposure to all kinds of food at a young age, my comfort foods include mussels, chicken livers (blah to some, but oh so delicious to me), shrimp, tacos, and popcorn (not unusual, but this always reminds me of weekend movie nights with my family). I’d have to include caesar salad in this category as well. I’m sure many people may say this, but without exaggeration, my mom truly makes the best caesar salad. So incredibly garlicky and creamy. So today – an utterly crummy day – Kyle and I prepared a delicious dinner of mussels steamed with garlic, tomatoes, and wine and a big ‘ol bowl of caesar salad. And all is right in the world.
Red Wine, Tomato & Garlic Steamed Mussels
This recipe serves 2 people. But it’s easily adapted to serve more – you don’t necessarily have to “double” or “triple” the ingredients to serve 4-6 (other than the amount of the mussels). Basically you’re making a flavourful broth for the mussels to steam in. If you are serving 6 people, you could still get away with only about 1 cup of wine … but if you want a lot of leftover liquid to dip bread into, go ahead and add up to 1 1/2 cups for 6 servings. You may also want to increase the garlic as well. Just remember to cook approximately 1 lb of mussels per person.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
pinch of saffron (optional)
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 lbs mussels
1 Tbsp cold butter
1 Tbsp basil, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
1 small baguette (optional…well, not really)
Heat oil in a large heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili flakes, and salt. Saute for about 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add saffron (optional), tomatoes, and pepper. Cook for another 4 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add mussels and steam for about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Mussels are done, when nearly all of them are opened up. Stir in butter and let melt. Toss with basil and parsley if desired.
Remember to discard any mussels that are not open. Serve with lots of bread to sop up the broth.