Mussels with Saffron & Mustard

March 16 - Mussels with Saffron & Mustard with fresh ABin5 baguette and a big green salad
March 17 - Guinness Braised Pork Belly & Purple Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs & Chipotle Ketchup
March 18 - Dinner out at Queen Margherita Pizza

So this week was a test in if I could plan out the meals for the week and stick to my plan.  In case you couldn't tell from reading my posts, I NEVER plan a weeks worth of meals, no matter how busy we are dinner is very often a "What do you feel like tonight?" kind of thing.  It's a bit more tough to constantly work on the fly with the challenge and it's generally not very cost effective.  In planning this week's meals I went with recipes I wanted to try, as well as planned around produce and ingredients I knew we had on hand. It's the first time in awhile that I didn't utilize leftovers in anything, mainly because I made smaller dishes and I had just enough leftovers for a lunch or two for me. Leftovers are perfect for me for lunch since most days I can't be bothered to figure out lunch for myself, but if I have something sitting in the fridge I'll heat it up when I get hungry.  Just one of the ways I've had to adjust to being an unemployed feature film assistant/independent producer/aspiring writer.

Anyway, this was one of those dishes that when I saw it in my Bouchon cookbook, I knew I had to make.  With the weather getting warmer I start to crave those foods I love in the summer and mussels are absolutely one of those things.  Not that I don't eat mussels in the winter, but there is something about the messiness of using your hands and sopping up the brothy goodness with bread, that begs to be eaten on a patio in the sun with a nice cold Belgian beer or glass of white wine.  I think one of the reasons I think that is that I distinctly remember one summer when I was still living in Boston spending a few Saturday or Sunday brunches on the patio at Charley's on Newbury Street inhaling mussels and their delicious bread that's always soft and warm and is oddly reminiscent of a saltine, yet it all always worked perfectly with their big bowl of mussels.

Mussels are classic bistro food and whiles Thomas Keller does everything amazingly, this recipe just sounded too perfect to pass up.  Planning ahead to make the Garlic Confit can be a drag but since it keeps for a month in the fridge you could easily do it on the weekend and have a super easy weeknight meal.  We just ate it with a homemade baguette and a nice mache and red romaine salad.  It's the perfect kind of meal for us, because I can make the broth earlier in the evening and just throw the mussels on when the Boy gets home and have dinner on the table in 10 minutes.

Mussels with Saffron & Mustard
adapted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller

12 Tbsps unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots24 cloves Garlic Confit (recipe below)
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp minced thyme (I used 1 1/2 tsp of dried thyme)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper, freshly ground is preferred
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups dry white wine, like a sauvignon blanc
4 pinches saffron threads
4 lbs small mussels
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsps minced flat leaf parsley
fresh ground black pepper

1.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, thyme, salt & white pepper, reduce heat to low and cook gently for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
2. Add the msutard and wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two then add in the saffron threads, cover the pot and remove from heat.
3.  Let the broth steep for at least 5 minutes, it can sit for a few hours a room temperature if necessary, which is exactly what I did.
4.  Rinse the mussels under cold water, scrub if necessary, pull off and discard beards.
5. Bring broth to a simmer over high heat.  Add the mussels and give it a quick stir to combine the mussels with the broth. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mussels have opened.
6.  Top mussels with the parsley and a few grindings of black pepper. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Garlic Confit
adapted from Bouchon by Thomas Keller

1 cup peeled garlic cloves (about 45 cloves)
Approx 2 cups of canola oil

1.  Cut off and discard the root ends of the garlic cloves. Place the cloves in a small saucepan and add enough oil to cover but 1 inch, nothing should be poking out through the oil.
2. Place the saucepan on a diffuser over medium low heat. The cloves should cook gently (very small bubbles will come up through the oil, but they should not break the surface. Adjust the heat as necessary and move the pan to one side of the diffuser if it is cooking too quickly.
3. Cook the garlic for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the cloves are completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil.
4. Refrigerate the garlic, submerged in oil, for up to one month.

Sadly the mussels I picked up weren't the best, but the amazingly flavorful broth and homemade bread made up for it.  The boy said they reminded him of mussels that  he ate everyday when he was working Bar Harbour, ME year and years ago.  He has more than once spoke of these mussels and how they would all flock to this one restaurant for the mussels.  My goal wasn't to try to make those, so it was nice that I happened upon something so similar.  While I won't be making these for dinner again next year, this recipe is a keeper and see many a sunny days on the deck at the cottage with big bowls of mussels.