The Memory Remains...

OK...so I ripped it off of Metallica! It is a killer song and this was a killer food experience and one that literally has been in my memory since childhood. Picking fresh mussels on Puget Sound and eating them fresh is a wonderful thing~ one that everyone needs to experience at least once. My late mother used to send me down to the beach in front of our little humble abode and ask me to pick the mussels off the rocks and bring them up to her to cook. She would show me how to (painfully it seemed) clean them diligently and gently before doing so. Pull from the rocks and clusters...wrestle the beard out of the shell...scrape off the barnacles...soak and purge in cold running water...soak and purge again...one more time...and then, the magic started. She would take onions, garlic, thyme and other various herbs like fresh parsley along with white wine and/or vermouth, butter, and bring to a gentle simmer. Then, she would toss the mussels into the pot and cover while cooking gently over moderate simmering heat. Shaking the pan often and removing the lid periodically to see how things were going and to stir the mussels, then she carefully would remove the little beauties as their shells would open. Into a large bowl they would go and when all had opened, she would pour the fragrant and flavorful broth into the bowl for dunking French bread into as we ate. It was always just her and I...a special ceremony and celebration of food, taste, and togetherness, collectively sharing this special and memorable moment, and one that I will never forget. I miss her greatly. So, it is with this wonderful memory in mind that I shared my childhood experience with some friends and my sons last Saturday as we picked fresh mussels from the beaches on Whidbey Island, and then I proceeded to show them how the special process is done. For this outing, we must have harvested about 15-20lb. of the black bivalves(we could have gathered hundreds as there were a plethora around). Although the process of cleaning, soaking and debearding and general cooking is the same, I altered the recipe a bit...this time, I sweated minced shallots, ginger, lemongrass and garlic in butter and olive oil. Once softened, I added fresh thyme and tarragon and deglazed with chardonnay. As it simmered and reduced slightly, I rinsed the mussels once more. To the pot, I added a can of coconut milk and brought to a simmer. I let it reduce by about a third and added the mussels, covered the pot and simmered gently until the mussels opened their little shells. Lastly, I seasoned the broth and added a couple squeezes of siracha for heat and flavor. The aroma and smell of the sweet mollusks and aromatic broth was intoxicating to say the least, and eating them was not any different! It brought back many memories as we polished off the entire bowl in a matter of a few minutes. My mom would have been proud. Good times.


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