Succulent smoked mussels – and Cooking for Teens!

One reason we left Georgia…

JodyHice

It wasn’t just the heat (in 2012, 90 days over 90 degrees!). It was also because of guys like this:

Jody Hice, a pastor with a popular radio show, is running in the Republican primary to represent Georgia’s 10th congressional district in Congress. He was recently quoted as saying…

“Homosexuals have the right to be married, just not to one another.”

The 10th district covers a huge amount of real estate just east of Atlanta. Hice is in a two-person runoff with Mike Collins, another mega ultra conservative wingnut. Either one of them is likely to clobber the democrat, Ken Dious, come November.

*sigh*

The redder it gets, the more Georgia’s off our mind.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Lub dub… lub dub…

I’ve been checking my blood pressure lately. It’s a good idea to do that when it runs a little high.  So I’ve recently put my arm in various BP cuffs at Hannaford, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, and other places, and learned to my unfathomable chagrin that some of these machines feature strident, sharp-tongued voices (usually female) from the Nurse Ratched School of Charm telling you what to do and not to do, and if you mess up they will hunt you down and scold you in person. It goes without saying, I believe, that the company you keep has much to do with your systolic and diastolic levels, and these voices are not good company.nurse-ratched

“Put your arm in the cuff. I will start squeezing your biceps.” Okay so far, I don’t mind.  “Don’t move and don’t talk!” Please don’t talk to me in that tone. “The test is starting. Relax!” I want Enya. Babbling brooks… “It’s vital that you relax!!” It’s vital that you get professional help. You’re obviously troubled — “The test is almost done. Keep relaxing!!!!” Hey, I’m loose as a goose. Take a hike, lady, I’m on the verge of hating you.

The results? Not so good…

I believe my wife has a calm, soothing, almost Zen Buddhist-like voice and she has agreed to make herself available to the BP machine companies to do their voice-overs, and I would happily recommend her. Also, peaceful scenic images of Maine wouldn’t hurt either. C’mon, BP machine people, sharpen up!

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Cooking for Teens!

I’ve been playing with the idea of repositioning this blog to appeal to younger people who don’t have very much experience in the kitchen. Cooking for Teens!, I might call it, with the exclamation point included because there are not so many cookbooks designed for teens. When I was a teen, I was excluded from the kitchen – even for doing dishes – but I don’t want to to go there except to note that I knew I was missing a lot. My own three kids, as teens, had their turns in the kitchen, and my daughter actually ran a brownie business for a couple of years and worked her **s off doing it. So I know that teens – many of them – would love to cook.

Do teens have issues? Sure they do – like the rest of us – but theirs are more about school, parents, relationships, self-image, finding their way, and other such teenage stuff – but turn them loose in the kitchen and they’re saying, hey, if I can build a robot and develop an iPhone app and design tattoos and repair a lawn mower engine, cooking is like falling out of my top bunk! So my idea is, all the recipes you’ve seen here – they don’t change! They’re just written a little differently so they’d appeal more to teens.

And we’re all the beneficiaries because first, teens are involved in the process of doing things for the family. Second, they’re expanding their horizons and abilities. Third, they’re learning about the chemistry of food ingredients, which isn’t always that simple. Last, they can accomplish great things and feel good about it. Cooking for Teens! I like that idea.

 ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Smoked Mussels

… for adults, and Teens!

Smoked mussels in olive oil... stand back, Ducktrap!

Smoked mussels in olive oil… stand back, Ducktrap!

I remember as a kid, back in the ’50s, my parents returning from trips to France extolling the gustatory delights of steamed mussels. No one ate them here in the U.S. (except maybe in New York at French restaurants) – they were trash food, bait for flounders, fertilizer. 60 years later, they’re a thriving aquaculture business here in Maine, plentiful, robust, clean, cheap – and ready to be cooked six ways to Sunday.

We think Ducktrap smoked mussels are as good as they can get, but we wanted to see if we could come close to their excellent flavor with our own smoker (a gift from our friends in Union). We think we nailed it.

Hot coals ready to go into the smoker

Hot coals ready to go into the smoker

This is adapted from a recipe by Hank Shaw on honest-food.net, with some small changes. Here we go:

You’ll need:

  • 4 lbs. mussels
  • 1 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • a smoker, and smoking chips of hickory or apple
  • about 3 hours start to finish
Mussels marinating in the cooking liquid.

Mussels marinating in the cooking liquid.

 

Put the vermouth and water in a large pot, bring to a boil and add the mussels. Cover and steam until they open – about 2 minutes give or take. Spoon the mussels out into a bowl.

Reserve the cooking liquid in another bowl, straining through paper towels or cheesecloth to remove grit or sand. Now remove the mussel meats, debeard them, and drop into the reserved broth. They can marinate for 20-30 minutes while you fire up the smoker.

You’ll need a fine grate on top of the smoker, or do what we did with tin foil, poking holes in it about an inch apart. Get your coals nice and hot, add the smoking chips, and layer the mussels out on the grate or perforated foil. Cover and smoke 90-120 minutes, aiming for an ideal temp of 145 degrees.

they're done

they’re done!

When done, throw the mussels into a bowl of olive oil, let the sit and cool, then enjoy! Store in the fridge in a glass jar for a week or so, or freeze what’s left over.

I’d say – and our guests agreed – we came out on a par with Ducktrap, which is saying something.

There you have it.

 

 

 

 

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.