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Monday, September 13, 2010

Mussels - Bittman Style

Years ago - when Ellie was in third grade I used a Homeschooling curriculum for her called 5 In A Row. It is a great literature based curriculum that uses Living Books to teach all across the curriculum.  Living books are books that make the subject come alive. I liken it to Real food, not processed. A living book is engaging, it draws you in.

So what does that have to do with mussels? Well, Ellie and I read a book called "The Very Last First Time" about a young Inuit girl who must go down under the ice when the tide is out to collect mussels all by herself.
Ellie and I did all sorts of projects.  Learning about the life this young girl would have led, about the toys and games she would have played. We also learned about the weather and how it affects the Inuit peoples. It was really a great time. Ellie still talks about reading the book and how much fun we had.

The best part was how we ended the lesson. We got all dressed up and went to a fancy Italian Restaurant and ordered mussels. And clams. And oysters. Oh, we were in mollusk heaven. It was a great experience. At first Ellie was a little leery but once she tasted them she LOVED them. She ate a whole adult meal.

She and Joe and I almost always order mussels when the opportunity presents itself. But as you can imagine we don't get a lot of those opportunities. I have wanted to make some at home so but to be honest I was nervous. I mean what if I cooked bad mussels and poisoned us all?

Today I stopped at the local fancy schmancy Real Food Market - it must be kind of like a mini Trader Joes (at least that is my impression never having been there). And there they were - a big bag of fresh mussels and they were only $8. I couldn't resist. I knew my little kids would be thrilled to have mussels for dinner - and think it was uber cool. So, when I got home I pulled out my Bittman HTCE. You see I have come to trust Mark Bittmans How To Cook Everything recipe book, I was sure I could pull it off.

Awhile back I posted a Mark Bittman recipe for Mussels in Tomato White Bean sauce. Today I wanted to try something different. I sort of combined 2 Mussel recipes into one and then added a little more stuff.

First I cleaned the mussels. I just ran them under water for like 10 minutes. (Bittman suggests 30) I was somewhat sad in how many I had to put in the compost bin.

In butter I sauteed' a 1/4 of a small red onion (diced) then I added 3 slices of bacon cut up - next time I will cook the bacon first and then add the butter and onion.

Next I added 1 pint of homemade tomato sauce and about a cup of white wine. I let it cook a bit and then I added the mussels and put the lid on the pan after it came to a boil. I let them steam for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime I cooked a pound of linguine which we dumped everything over and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The mussels were a hit - at least with the mussel loving crowd. Josh and Sylvia weren't totally sold - but they ate it! Sadly the big girls weren't home to have some. Because we didn't leave any leftovers. (yes I know my kids are eating on little plates - we almost always do that - don't worry everyone got 2nds and even 3rds!)

Sylvia wanted to clean and save her shells. Ellie told her that from experience - they stink after a bit.

I will be making this again - I will just make more sauce next time, my kids love lots of tomato sauce on their noodles.

It was a delicious trip down memory lane for all of us.

So tell me, what unusual foods do your kids love?

This post is my entry into the Hearth and Soul blog hop, the most amazing resource for real food recipes that nourish the soul.

I am also linking this to Tasty Tuesdays


  1. I love your method of homeschooling! Really integrating what you're learning/teaching into every aspect of life. Oh mussels, such tasty little creatures!

  2. Your method of homeschooling sounds a lot like ours. I love using "living books" to make history fascinating to my children. I also enjoy going beyond the book and trying recipes and other projects to add another dimension for my children.

    The recipe sounds great and reminds me of a trip I took with my Grandma to the Oregon coast. She insited on keeping the shells from her pasta and seafood dish and taking them home to be "repurposed". The nut doesn't fall far from the tree. : )

  3. I've always been nervous about cooking mussels too -I'm feeling encouraged by your post though! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    My son has always been really good about trying just about everything, but he really isn't into mussels, lobster, or anything with a visible shell. He does eat shrimp though - particularly the coconut variety!!

    Thanks for co-hosting the blog hop and have a great week!

  4. Alea, sadly (because I miss my kids so much) we felt called to put the kids in a parochial school - I really miss doing lessons like this one with my kiddos!
    Amy - as long as a kid will at least taste something I am happy! And who doesn't love coconut shrimp!!

  5. Aw Christy! What a lovely memory and I too, though, not a home schooling mom, still do things like this with my kids whenever I get the chance, like reading books and learning new skills and having fun together that involves more than a television and computer screen! I have never been big on seafood as my mother was allergic so we didnt eat it much as a child. That all changed when I met my husband, and I have slowly tried and cooked the full range of mollusk and crustacean! You go girl on your mussel success and the pictures of your happy children warm my heart! :) Thanks as always for being YOU, hosting and posting on the hearth n soul hop! :) HUGS! alex@amoderatelife

  6. Great post, Christy. I love food that reinforces our special memories - that's real food in anyone's book! I love mussels too and am very fortunate that we get beautiful mussels here in New Zealand.

  7. Wow! Your kids ate it too? Thanks so much for sharing and linkin up. I'm gonna have hubs read this one.

  8. Christy, maybe we could do a living book together, that sounds like a lot of fun, even for a grown up. Or maybe I just don't get out much? Hmm, but I'd sure pull up a chair to the table if mussels were being served. How wonderful that all of your kids will eat them! Loving the memories and the recipes at Hearth and Soul!

  9. I love experiences that stick with you and that you can re-live!! How fabulous. And I didn't realize you could be seafood into the compost bin...huh! What a great post =)

  10. Heather - I think you can put it in the compost - if you bury it deep. We will find out I guess. LOL.