Shellfish have really been an adult favorite for me. When I was a kid through late teen about the closest I could get were shrimp (already out of their shell) or maybe imitation crab. I think a lot of my distaste was a texture thing with maybe a 30% presentation thing (shells were like bones and that kinda freaked me out). As I get older however and try more things I have enjoyed a growing passion for fresh seafood particularly the shelled varieties. I'm obsessed with oysters on the half shell thanks to my man. After finally trying them in a new menu item waaaaaay back when I worked at Macaroni Grill I can't get enough Scallops. Similarly I had never had much desire to try mussels until, while as a new staff trainer at Pizza Antica, I had to do a tasting of our white wine and fennel steamed mussels as part of menu training. It was one of those revelations where you feel slightly sheepish- why had I been avoiding these? While I don't eat them often I have a new affinity for steamed mussels that had finally manifested in a desire to cook them at home. A daunting task in that I had been haunted by the need to "debeard" the mussels prior to cooking them. After making this dish last night.... I'm still not sure what it entails. I really wanted to make this post about over coming my fear and giving you all hints on how to do it. Well I guess I can still do that I found a great step by step description HERE on AllRecipes.com When it came time for me to do it however on my pound of Black Mussels I procured at Whole Foods.... there wasn't a Beard to be detached. At least not as far as I could see. Maybe 3 or 4 (out of about 25) had a little tiny bit still stuck on that was easily pulled off but other than that- nada. Was I blind? Did I not understand what I was looking for? Honestly I still don't know. My guess is that Whole Foods debeards them for you. I guess I should have asked (their staff is always happy to talk in depth about their products and preparing them especially with first timers) but I didn't. No harm no foul they came out awesome!
There are lots of different combinations of liquids you can steam mussels in traditionally white wine based. However I was craving something a little more exotic. I found this recipe on good old Epicurious from the August 1999 issue of Gourmet Magazine. Not being a big cilantro fan I skipped that and added fresh lemon grass stalks to the steaming liquid. I also added some sliced green bell pepper and vermicelli noodles to make this more of an entree vs an appetizer. Lastly because I was only making them for myself I only used 1 lb of mussels vs the 5 the recipe calls for. I still used the full amount of steaming liquid.