Sunday, 7 April 2013

Poor man's mussels

In Andalusia I have access to ingredients the quality (and the price! of which I can only dream of in Helsinki. That has served as a lesson not only in gratitude, but respect, too. I don't want to waste anything.

Leftover bread I recycle to my own, home-made bread crumbs or I make bread baskets out of them, always handy for appetizers, cocktails or tea parties. Sometimes they get turned into desserts such as French toast. Shells left from cooking prawns get turned into shellfish stock and the leftovers from squid-cleaning operations get used for stuffed squid or marinated salads. 

Leftover sauces get a new life as dips the following day. And as much as I do love mussels, there's no way even I could wolf down an entire kilo. Not in front of The Gentleman's terror-stricken gaze anyway... And since they're sold by a kilo, due to The Gentleman's allergy half of it would go to waste. So I steam them too and freeze for later use. Such as these poor man's mussels.

I mean, there's nothing poor about these (though they are cheap here!) but the name comes from thinking how part of the breadcrumbs could be substituted with parmesan (yes, me! The cheese-phobe!) and learning how in parts of Italy the poor used breadcrumbs in cooking as it looked the same and provided similar crispiness. And as flavours go, this is a very Italian tasting dish. So, without any guilt at all I left out the cheese and didn't even feel bad about it! If you make your own bread crumbs, they can be a bit rougher than in say, croquetas. Preparation is this simple: Shove the old, stale bread into a blender, blizz and spread on a plate (or a tray) and let dry. In order to expedite things, you can also use the oven in a low setting.

Though not one to toot my own horn, I'm telling you this was so good that the only way to make it better would be to have my girlfriends from Finland (and one from Denmark!) to accompany this in addition to the Albariño...

Makes 14

14 mussels
the zest of 1 lemon, grated
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1 heaped tbsp spring onions
1 heaped tbsp parsley
2 heaped tbsp butter, melted
1 chilli (tone down or up based on the fieriness of your chilli)
8 tbsp bread crumbs
salt, pepper

If using fresh mussels, clean them and steam for 5 minutes, throwing away the ones that didn't open. Open the shells and use the half with the meat in it for these If using frozen ones, let them thaw and then get cracking.

Combine the ingredients, pour in the melted butter and mix quickly. The consistency should be like wet sand that holds its form slightly when squeezed in your palm (how´s that for vague...?) Divide the mixture on top of the mussels, gratinate in 180 for about 10 minutes until the crumbs get a bit of colour.   Serve with fresh lemon juice and a healthy dose of aahhhhh.

Simple and delicious- alone or shared!

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