Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gastronomy: Must-Have Mollusks

When the Belgian mussel craze hit the U.S., Michael Roper’s Hopleaf helped lead the way. No where in Chicago could you find a more perfect bowl of savory bivalves, accompanied with warm, crusty bread for dippin’.

Since I no longer live in walking distance of the Hopleaf, I had to learn how to make these must-have mollusks myself. This recipe, adapted from Michael Roper’s, is easy, economical, and a magnificent comfort food for the long, winter months.

Belgian Beer Mussels

2 T olive oil
2 shallots, roughly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1 12 oz bottle of Belgian wheat ale
¼ t fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 T butter
½ t salt
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven; add shallots and celery. Cook until softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add mussels, beer, thyme, bay leaf, butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until mussels open, approximately 5 minutes; move pan frequently and uncover infrequently.

Discard unopened mussels. Serve individually or communally, alongside Belgian beer and warm, crusty bread; serves 4. Details:

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After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

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