Sunday, October 10, 2010

Date Night In

Sometimes the best way to be a good parent is to take a break.  The husband and I make every effort to have an evening to ourselves on a biweekly basis. This is our date night; a time to focus on each other and momentarily allow playdates and science projects to fall by the wayside.  Our date nights are usually spent at the least family friendly restaurant available.  This week, however, we were  presented with the most rare occurrence; an empty house.  Wanting to bask in the precious peace and quiet, we decided to bring date night in.  Not wanting to destroy the serenity with a huge project and disastrous clean up, I turned to my dear Ina Garten and discovered her recipe for Mussels in White Wine.   Not only is this recipe easy, but it is on the table in 45 minutes.  Grab a bottle of wine, pull out some cloth napkins and the dining room is now a French Bistro.

Mussels in White Wine:
recipe created by Ina Garten
3 pounds cultivated mussels (my fish monger graciously picked through several sacks to give me three pounds of live mussels.  Although this will add some time to you're shopping trip, you will avoid paying for mussels meant for the trash.)
1/3 cup AP flour
2 TB unsalted butter
2 TB good olive oil
1 cup shallots (about 5-7 shallots)
1 1/2 TB minced garlic (5-6 cloves)
1/2 cup San Marzanno Tomatoes
1/2 tsp. good saffron threads
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes*
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 TB fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good white wine
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
  1. To clean the mussels, place them in a bowl with 2 quarts of water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes, or until the mussels disgorge any sand.  Drain the mussels, then remove the 'beard' with your fingers. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water.  Discard any mussels whose shells are not tightly shut. 
  2. In a large non aluminum stock pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent.  Add the tomatoes, saffron, parsley, thyme, wine, salt and pepper.  *(It was at this stage that I added the red pepper flakes; a bit less French, a bit more French Cajun). Bring to a boil.
  3. Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom.  Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot.  
We sopped up the broth with a fresh baguette however, it truly screamed for a side of linguini.  Offering shellfish rather than the usual comfort food instantly made this dinner an occasion.  What more do you need on date night?

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