Monday, July 18, 2011

Mussels with bacon and a green bean salad

This is one of those wonderful Friday meals.  I love socializing as much as the next gal, but so often my perfect Friday is a great homemade meal, fantastic company (that will be missed for the next couple of months), maybe a good movie/documentary, maybe a little reading in bed.  Last Friday definitely fit the bill, with mussels steamed in wine with smoky bacon and a few vegetables, oven-fries make with duck fat instead of olive oil (we are all about indulgence around here), and a crisp seasonal salad.
Sometimes the best recipes are inspired by a completely different idea.  I saw a stew of fresh corn, bacon and clams that sounded a little heavy, but I really loved the idea of bacon, tomatoes, and shell fish.  Taking that inspiration to a more classic approach to steamed mussels, I added shallots and fennel, a healthy pour of wine, and lots of parsley.   I also quickly realized that Friday was right after Bastille Day, so applying a French theme to the salad made lots of sense, resulting in a mix of slender green beans, thinly sliced radishes and fennel, all dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  My wine guys at the favorite Brooklyn Wine Exchange did not disappoint with a suggestion of round and lush La Dilettante, a 2009 Vouvray from Domaine Breton.  It managed to offer freshness and minerality to the seafood, while standing up to smoky bacon.

Steamed mussels with bacon
2 large shallots, diced finely
1/2 medium fennel head, diced finely
2-3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/4 pound of your favorite bacon
2 pounds mussels, beards removed and scrubbed, for 2 people
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 cups of white wine
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fennel fronds, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the shallots, garlic, and fennel and saute until softened and starting to take on a bit of color.  Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy.  Add the mussels, the tomato, the wine and stir well.  Cover the pot and cook, stirring or shaking every couple of minutes, for 5 - 10 minutes, until the mussels are open.  Taste the sauce in pot and season with salt and pepper, as you like.  Stir in the parsley and the fennel fronds.  Serve immediately with french fries and good bread for soaking in the juice.

Green beans, radishes, fennel salad

1 pound of slender green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1/4 pound radishes, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 medium fennel head (leftover from the mussels), sliced thinly
1 medium shallot, diced finely
1/4 cup of sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of good mustard
1/3 - 1/2 cup of good olive oil, depending on how acidic you like your dressing
1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup of fennel fronds, chopped
Plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil, add plenty of salt (as if cooking pasta), and dump in the green beans.  Cook for 2 -3 minutes until a bit tender but still crisp.  Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the shallots, the vinegar, the mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Mix or shake well.
Drain the green beans in a colander and cool them quickly, either by submerging in ice water or running cold water over them.  Shake off excess water and combine, in a medium bowl with the radishes, the fennels, the herbs, a bit of salt and more pepper, and the dressing.  You may have dressing left over and it will keep fine in the fridge for a week and taste delicious on any green salad.  Serve with the mussels and feel you arteries get a good, tasty scrub.

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