Mussels, My Way

The moment has arrived! I explored and conquered. I decided to go with a Spanish themed mussel dish which is not at all like any of the mussels I tried at various restaurants. I knew I wanted a complementary meat based on my experiences at both Goat Hollow and Monk’s Cafe.

Before you read this recipe, keep in mind that I rarely measure anything. I always tend to guesstimate so feel free to do the same. The objective to cooking with love is doing what feels right. Go with your gut. I trust you!

Recipe:

2 healthy turns of olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper( you can find this is any grocery store dry spice aisle)

1 medium onion, chopped

1/4 fennel bulb (not a fan of this so I only added enough to enhance the flavor. Feel free to use more if you like)

2 spicy chorizo sausage links, casing removed (I purchased mine from a butcher. This allows you to be in control of exactly how much you want to buy)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup of white wine ( just use what you have on hand)

1/4-1/3 cup of vegetable stock

3/4 tablespoon of salt

1/2 tablespoon of pepper

1 pound of mussels, cleaned and beards removed

1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

About 10 springs if fresh chives, chopped

Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Juice of a half of a lemon

Pat of butter

Italian loaf from local bakery (includes grocery store bakery)

20140127-102253.jpg     20140127-102315.jpg                Step 1: Add oil to pan set to medium high heat. Add chorizo and red pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, breaking chorizo into healthy bite sized pieces. Add onions and fennel and cook about 2 minutes.                                                              20140127-102326.jpg

Step 2: Add garlic, white wine, and stock. Simmer for about a minute and add salt and pepper.                                                                                20140127-102334.jpg

Step 3: Add mussels, close the lid and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Don’t open the lid until at least 4 minutes pass as you don’t want to interrupt the steam process. 20140127-102349.jpg

Step 4: Open the lid, add the tomatoes and stir in the mussels and broth. Ladle the mussel mixture into two deep bowls. Squeeze lemon juice over each bowl and top with chives, parsley, and a half pat of butter.                                      20140127-102400.jpg

Step 5: Enjoy with a nice size piece of bread.               20140127-102409.jpg

I hope you are inspired to try this dish! Let me know how your dish turned out and if you did anything differently! After all, I am learning as well!

Reviews and Experiences

I decided to find an amazing mussel dish for this month’s meal challenge. I wanted to experience a stellar, unique mussel dish that strayed from the traditional white wine offering.  I selected three different restaurants in the city of Philadelphia that Yelp reviewers claimed to be the best. My selections included Monk’s Belgian Cafe, Eulogy Belgian Tavern, and Birra Pizzeria. Well… Like many other ventures I decide to take on, I start out with an extensive list and give myself no time to accomplish it. I managed to make it to one place on my list! Don’t shake your head; I did try two additional places that were not on my original list. Take that!

I visited Legal Seafood (suburbs of Philly), Goat Hollow (Mt. Airy section of Philly), and Monk’s Belgian Café (on my original list).

My Legal Seafood visit was celebratory. My darling’s birthday was this month and the choice for the birthday dinner was Legal Seafood. I am soooo not a chain restaurant girl. With so many small restaurants in Philly, I never feel the need to visit a chain but I’ve been a fan of Legal Seafood for quite some time. I was delighted to see they had mussels on the menu so we decided that would be our first course.                                                        .

The Legal mussel recipe consisted of a traditional white wine broth but with a healthy amount of crushed red peppers. I enjoyed the spicy note of the broth but the mussels were not as big as I would’ve liked. The biggest issue I had with this dish was the bread. It was way too crisp and even when dipped in the broth, it did not soften. It was almost like they don’t realize how instrumental the bread is in this dish. They were tasty but didn’t make the cut for the best mussels title.

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Along comes the last week of January and I am talking to my friends who happen to be my accountability partners when it comes to pursuing my passion. They very casually(not really) mentioned that the month is drawing nigh and they didn’t remember me talking about making the mussels. My response was, “I know I must get it done this weekend!”

With that being said, Goat Hollow is next up… Goat Hollow is a super cute, super hip small Phillyesque restaurant. The wonderful thing about Goat Hollow is the mature list of craft beer and their homage to Mt. Airy. For example, their mussels are named after various streets in Mt. Airy. Value add for sure in my book!

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I visited Goat Hollow with a gang of kiddies on a Friday evening; My two girls, my baby cousin, and my sister’s god-daughter who has unwillingly become my honorary niece. My sister also joined me. Needless to say we were one of the only tables with kids but we made the best of it because I was on a mission. After reviewing the menu I ordered the Goat Hollow and my sister ordered the Lincoln Drive mussels. After waiting 35 minutes our food finally came out. The mussels were accompanied by fries and a dinner roll.

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The Goat Hollow mussels were made up of caramelized onions, tasso(specialty Southern ham), and beer. They were certainly tasty but the tasso was washed away in my opinion. The dish would’ve been better had the tasso been added at the very end and not drenched in the broth. The fries were nice and crispy and the roll was chewy and complimented the broth very well. I had a taste of my sister’s Lincoln Drive and as expected it was garlicky, buttery goodness.

Finally we get to the great part! Monk’s Cafe… Oh me, oh my! Have you ever went out of your way to try a place that people rave about and when you finally get it, it’s just ok? Well that is not the case with Monk’s Cafe! We(my darling and I) walked in around 11:30 on a Saturday night ruling out the chance of being seated right away as it was super crowded. We walk in and manage to snag a table with no wait! Upon being seated, we review their beer bible which is a hearty list of Belgian brews. We ordered two beers then set our sites on the mussel menu. We choose the Thai Curry and Ghent (bacon, onions, and blue cheese) mussels. While waiting for our food we make small talk with the table of four people sitting next to us. I mention the purpose of this visit and they asked if I tried Devil’s Den. I am definitely trying them in the very near future. 

Our food arrives in about 15 minutes and we immediately dig in. Melt in your mouth goodness! They were tasty, big mussels that melted in your mouth. There was only one problem. They didn’t belong to us! As I am enjoying them I notice I don’t taste curry or blue cheese. Our waitress stopped by and I asked her what we ordered again. She confirmed Thai curry and Ghent, I said ok, and she walked away. I ate about two more and had to get the waitress. I asked her to look at the mussels we had and tell me what kind they are. Low and behold, our mussels were switched with the table next to us. The waitress asked if we wanted to switch them and we chose to keep one(Monk’s Cafe mussels) and get an order of Ghent mussels. The Monk’s mussels were their take on a traditional white wine.

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Ghent mussels… Heavenly blue cheese and bacon goodness. Those flavors can tend to overpower but the mussels still managed to shine trough the creamy goodness.

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Overall this was an awesome meal that included awesome beer and ended a snowy day on a good note. Oh, and I didn’t mention that the table next to us let me taste the Thai curry mussels. Yummy! The moral of my story is… The Belgians do it better!

My Love for Mussels

Something has happened to me. It usually only happens once in a while. I’m lying. It happens pretty frequently. I get a craving for something, I satisfy that craving, I make that dish at home.

For the past week I’ve been on a hunt for mussels. Not just any mussel dish. I will pass on the standard white or red offering, unless it is exceptional. I am in desperate need of an unexpected broth! What makes an awesome mussel experience for me is dipping some crusty bread in yummy broth. Broth that is just on the edge of being too salty and makes you want to chug down a few cold ones.

I’ve had a good amount of mussel dishes from various restaurants around Philadelphia and was sadly disappointed by more than a few. Nothing is worse than having mussels that taste like the local river. Yuck!

With that being said, my dish for this month will be mussels!  Don’t get too excited though. There’s some strategy involved. Here’s the plan…

I will be trying a mussel dish at the following restaurants in Philadelphia based on Yelp reviews because we all know that Yelp is the bible of reviews.

1. Monk’s Cafe (http://www.yelp.com/menu/monks-caf%C3%A9-philadelphia-3): Pub located in the Rittenhouse Square area; They have 8 different kinds of mussels. Ambitious…

Monks

2. Birra (http://www.yelp.com/biz/birra-philadelphia#query:mussels): According to Yelp reviewers this East Passyunk pizzeria’s mussels are awesome. I am pretty sure I will get a pizza while I am there as well. Just seems right…

3. Eulogy Belgian Tavern (http://www.yelp.com/biz/eulogy-belgian-tavern-philadelphia): Old City Tavern that offers 9 different kind of mussels. Can’t wait!

Eulogy

So there you have it. I will taste, devour, create, then devour again. Which one will I make? We shall see…

Who Am I?

As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a passion for food. Not just any food. Food that was consumed when creating a memory. The first experience that comes to mind is being in the kitchen with my great grandmother while she prepared soulful food that would impact her community. Serving others was her passion. She would literally invite by-passers in for a hot meal whenever she felt it was right; which was quite often. They entered with empty stomachs and left full and forever inspired. If I aspire to be like anyone, it would be Lucille Holmes, my great grandmother. She was a spit fire who offered love to the greatest degree.

Grands

My great grandparents all dressed up and ready to go!

This blog is a reflection of my journey with food, family, friends, and my impact on this small world. One of my goals for 2014 was improving my skills in the kitchen and inspiring busy moms to make wholesome meals for their families. I am an avid Instagram user and post pictures of my meals. The most popular comments I receive are, “I should try this”, and “I need to come over your place for dinner one night”. This is my attempt to challenge everyone to get up and make a meal they are not familiar with and develop a better relationship with food.

I too will be sharing a recipe I’ve never made each month(hence the name) along with feedback on how that dish turned out. As my close friends and family can testify, every meal will not be a winner the first time but rather my attempt at inspiring others.

Off to think of my first attempt! Until we meet again…