Growing up, my Mom made every meal special in its own way. Either she would serve the most humble meal on the fanciest of dishes or search the city for ingredients I wasn’t familiar with but she knew I would love. One of my more vivid memories is of my Mom making mussels marinara. How wonderful it was to come home after school and smell the aroma of shellfish, tomatoes and garlic. Alongside the mussels marinara, my Mom had her famous garlic bread which was always the perfect compliment to the dish. If you’re a regular reader, you may already know how much I love all types of seafood. Well, as I have gotten older, I have never lost my taste for mussels. On my 30th birthday, we took a road trip down to Washington and stayed in a great local hotel that was formerly an Army Officer quarters. We went to the nearby grocery store and found beautiful local mussels for my birthday dinner. The mussels in this area come from Penn Cove, home to a very large sustainable shellfish producer. The Penn Cove mussels were a bit smaller and more delicate than what I was used to and the flavour was incredible. I have such great memories of those mussels being cooked in the kitchen in the former Army Officer quarters while the fall winds were blowing outside. We put on a Hitchcock movie to watch while enjoying our mussels feast. I can’t imagine a better night than that. Where we live in British Columbia, we also have access to beautiful local mussels. Saltspring Island is home to some of the finest mussels available in our country and are readily available at local seafood shops. Recently, we went for a celebration dinner and the restaurant served us the most tender Saltspring Island mussels I have ever had. The presentation was certainly fancier than our holiday kitchen preparation, but the humble mussel was the star of both meals. One of the main reasons I wanted to share these stories with you is to explain how available and versatile mussels can be. Mussels are easy to prepare and can take on flavours from white wine and garlic to coconut and curry. Mussels can be served as an appetizer, an entree with fried potatoes or a sliced baguette or part of a larger seafood dish like a paella. What I love about mussels is their simple preparation and quick cook time which is contrary to how impressive a dish containing mussels can be. What could be more impressive to your guests than a pot full of mussels, flavoured to perfection, in a beautiful broth served alongside a fresh buttered baguette? I encourage you to look past the usual shrimp and scallops and embrace the magic of other seafood and shellfish – get out there and flex your mussels!
Written by AHWD Cuisine Contributor – Dan Saunders