My apologies for being off the blogging radar lately. It’s been one busy end of summer! A few weeks ago I went to the Craft Beer Festival on the East End of Long Island (which was a beautiful day chock full of delicious craft brews) and I was inspired to come up with a dish using one of the new beers I learned about. My bro would be quite proud of me considering he runs a fabulous beer and food blog. I actually snatched this idea from him. Very sneaky.
The beer I chose to feature in this dish is the Heavy Seas Loose Canon American Hop3 Ale. I usually shy away from hoppy IPA-style beers, but this one is extremely smooth. It doesn’t have that bitter bite at the end. Plus, the flavor is strong enough to punch up the taste of the dish even after the alcohol has cooked away. Since mussels are Belgium’s specialty, a Belgian beer would be the obvious choice. But hey, we’re American after all so why not let the U. S. of A. take a stab at this one.
I’m serving these BEER MUSSELS as a main dish with a crunchy whole wheat crostini on the side (for dunking in the broth). For the crostini, I lightly brushed slices of whole wheat ciabatta bread with olive oil, sprinkled with parm cheese and a little kosher salt and baked on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Classic mussel pots are often served with frites and mayonnaise on the side. Instead, I’m beefing-up the seafood portion and leaving the fries and mayo out of it. You don’t need the extra fried and fat calories tagging along.
I learned another important tip while creating this dinner. I added a mixture of crème fraiche and dijon mustard to the steaming pot to give the broth a little more richness and body. My initial instinct was to sub light sour cream for the crème fraiche. News flash: you can’t boil sour cream. You can warm it, but once it boils it starts to separate. It won’t hurt you, but it doesn’t look pretty. Go for the crème fraiche. You can boil it right along with the mussels without fear of clumping.
I flavor the steaming liquid with fresh tarragon. Tarragon pairs really nicely with seafood and especially well with the hint of Dijon. The beer adds some depth to the broth. These flavors, along with the liquid that’s released from the mussels, are pretty bold. Certainly not your average wimpy steamed mussels. They have character. Beer character.
As a Diet It Up meal, I cut out all of the butter and replaced it with olive oil. Instead of sprinkling the whole pot of mussels with croutons, I opted for one or two slices of whole wheat crostini per person. The crème fraiche and beer are certainly splurge ingredients, but the portions are limited. The recipe makes so much broth that you aren’t eating nearly as much of these rich ingredients as you put in. To top it off, mussels are a fairly inexpensive foray into seafood. The whole 2.5 lb bag only ran me about 7 bucks.
* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.