Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Is For Dining Alone

Eating alone is a trying thing for some people, writing cooking and eating off as products of a banal bodily necessity. I love to eat and cook alone, using the kitchen as an improvisational laboratory to experiment with recipe ideas, flavor combinations, and cooking techniques. MFK Fisher, a witty food writer with a fluid, deeply expressive writing style bursting with gastronomic knowledge, shared my passion. She was one of the best food writers out there, blurring the lines between the genres of food anthropology, ecology, travel literature, and cooking. Simply put, she made being a foodie cool long before it was fashionable. Her great strength as a writer is her ability to drag you into her prose to taste, smell, and feel your way through her experiences in and around the kitchen. Mary Frances was not afraid to dine alone, in fact she loved it, and one short and sweet chapter of her An Alphabet For Gourmets sums up her point of view. “It took me several years of such periods of being alone to learn how to care for myself, at least at table. I came to believe that since nobody else dared feed me as I wished to be fed. I must do it myself, and with as much aplomb as I could muster.” In regards to eating alone, I have taken a page from her book, and as a result treat myself to lavish meals regularly. I was in the mood to wine and dine myself tonight and decided to make a big bowl of curried mussels. This is a fantastic way to make mussels, which steam to perfection in five minutes accompanied by their cooking liquid enriched with coconut milk. The East meets West vibe is an interesting selling point of the dish, with the use of Schneider Weisse (an amber-mahogany hefeweizen) and exotic spices like turmeric and curry powder. I beseech you to shed the irrational fear of dining alone and treat yourself to a fancy meal from time to time. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

Curried Mussels
Serves 4

5 Lbs. Mussels
1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1 Large Shallot, minced
1 Tsp. Lemongrass, minced
1 Tsp. Fresh Ginger, grated
1 Garlic Clove, pressed
1 Jalapeno, rib removed and minced
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 C. Beer
1/2 C. Cilantro, chopped
1/2 C. Parsley, chopped
1 C. Coconut Milk
1/4 Tsp. Turmeric
1/4 Tsp. Curry Powder
1/4 C. Scallions
Salt & Pepper

1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large stockpot. Cook the shallot, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, jalapeno, and bay leaf until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mussels, beer, cilantro, parsley, and salt & pepper to the pot, cover, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes shaking occasionally.

2. Remove mussels and set aside, discarding all unopened ones. Filter the cooking liquid and return it to the pot over low heat. Add the coconut milk, turmeric, curry powder, and scallions to the sauce and whisk until combined. Bring to a low simmer.

3. Shell the mussels, reserving 10-12 intact for presentation, and add them to the sauce before serving. Serve with crusty bread and a sprig of both parsley and cilantro.

1 comment:

LZT Bacon said...

Love the recipe, and will try it, but I think you should leave all the muscles in the shells, using one to act as a tong while eating the rest of them --- then you can eat the sauce as a soup, or dip bread or other into it... or pour over rice.
As for MFK Fisher, simply one of the best 20th century writers. She lived in Provence for years, in particular, Marsilles.... and she visited Julia Child at the house in Plascassier which I have stayed at -- it is the next village from my house