Moules Marinieres

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I love replicating our favorite restaurant dishes in our own kitchen. Last week, we finally attempted a dish that is one of my all-time favorite to eat yet we had never realized just how easy it would be to make at home — moules frites. Inspired by our brunch at Meet in Paris, we wanted our first batch to keep it simple with garlic, shallots, butter, thyme, and white wine. We managed to find Prince Edward Island (PEI) mussels at our local supermarket chain, though the size of the flesh was nowhere near as gigantic as the ones we had at Meet. This classic mussel preparation is known as mariniere, French for “mariner’s style” but defined in the culinary world as a dish that is prepared by cooking in white wine.

Moules Marinieres

Moules Marinieres

Storing the Mussels: Odds are, the guy behind your grocery store’s seafood counter will toss the mussels into a plastic bag, tie it up, and wrap the whole thing in butcher paper. As soon as you get home, be sure to properly store the mussels. Most importantly, either take them out of the plastic bag or poke holes in it so that they do not suffocate. We transferred ours onto a metal tray, covered them with a damp paper towel, and kept them in the refrigerator until dinnertime. Here’s where it got a little tricky (to me anyway): BEFORE COOKING — the mussels should be tightly closed. Any open ones should close if you tap or otherwise gently disturb it. If the shells are agape and it does nothing, then it is dead and should be discarded. AFTER COOKING — all of the mussels should pop wide open. Any that remain shut are dead and should be discarded. Dead mussels are no bueno.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 lbs mussels (PEI ones are great)

1 shallot, finely diced

4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a small handful chopped fresh parsley), optional

2 cups dry white wine (any drinkable but well-priced white wine will do; we found a 2012 Beringer Chardonnay for $3/bottle — do NOT use “cooking wine”)

Crusty bread or baguette, warm or toasted if desired

Cleaned Mussels

Cleaned Mussels

First, clean the mussels under cold running tap water. Our mussels were pretty clean, but if needed, you’ll need to remove the beards from between the shells. Set aside.

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

Sauteing the Garlic and Shallots

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Saute the shallot and garlic until softened and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Season with a sprinkling of salt.

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Adding the Wine and Mussels

Add the herbs, if using, and pour in the wine. Turn the heat up to high and add the mussels, arranging them in a single layer if possible.

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and Let Simmer

Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. You’ll notice that they will gradually pop open. Start toasting off crostini-style slices of bread, if desired.

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

Stir the mussels and continue to boil, covered, for another minute or two. Remove the cover and serve immediately.

Beautiful Mussels!

Beautiful Mussels!

Yields 2 servings (the typical serving is about 1 pound of mussels per person).

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving Suggestion: alongside wine and crusty bread

Serving suggestion: in a large bowl alongside crusty bread and French fries (to complete this dish as moules frites). Provide a spoon, if desired, but I think the best “spoon” is the discarded shell of one of your eaten mussels. Savor the flavorful broth.

Pair with a glass of the same white wine used for cooking or a better Chardonnay if preferred. Bon appetit!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. I love to eat moules marinieres, but this was our very first time making it at home and boy, is it easy! I never would have imagined that we could recreate a gourmet dish like steamed mussels; light some candles and whip up a batch of these for your next date night at home for a boost of fanciness and romance.

This month is hosted by Leah at Sharing the Food We Love.

Cheers!

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Happy Hour: Coast – Santa Monica, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Drive west far enough on any of the streets in Santa Monica and before long you’ll find the beach. Cass and I were scoping out some beachfront locations and decided to stop in at Coast for happy hour which runs from 4pm-7pm, Monday through Thursday at the bar. Located in the beautiful Shutters on the Beach hotel, immediately adjacent to Casa Del Mar, Coast offers ocean views, fresh seafood, and great mixed drinks. Bonus: the happy hour menu features special pricing on appetizers as well as house wines and select cocktails.

Coast - The Open Kitchen

Coast – The Open Kitchen

Cass and I like to plan ahead, so when the bartender asked us what we would like from the happy hour menu, we said “One of everything!” Really. I’ve always wanted to do that. In fact, for the fish tacos and oysters, we had to order two. The bartender chuckled as she entered our order in the POS.

Blackberry Bramble

Blackberry Bramble – $14

To celebrate it being Thursday, I ordered a Blackberry Bramble – Hendricks gin, lemon juice, agave, blackberries. I had spotted it when I first glanced at the menu and knew I had to try it. Full of muddled blackberries and a generous pour of refreshing cucumber gin, this drink was perfect for enjoying the beautiful summer day.

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

Oyster Bar Chalkboard

The far end of the bar features a glass display housing a mountain of ice and fresh oysters. That day’s varieties were Misty Point, Malpeque, and Kumiai – a respectable selection for August. (Though I recently learned that the mnemonic of eating oysters only in months that end in -er is actually an outdated myth.)

Oyster of the Day - $2 each

Oyster of the Day – $2 each

We ordered two of the Oyster of the Day (Misty Point, I believe). Shucked to order and nested on a bed of crushed ice, the oysters were served with a spicy cocktail sauce and a vinegary tart mignonette. Not too sweet and not too briny, these oysters were a great way to whet our appetite for the fried goodies to come.

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce - $6

Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce – $6

The fried calamari were crispy with a light coating of batter and a tangy house-made tartar sauce. These were good but not particularly special, and personally I prefer my calamari with a bright marinara sauce rather than a creamy tartar.

Fish Tacos - $2 each

Fish Tacos – $2 each

Grilled fish tacos (by far my favorite over the deep-fried kind) on a house-made corn tortilla and topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded lettuce. The epitome of California beach cuisine, these fish tacos made us feel right at home.

Meatball Sliders with Provolone - $6

Meatball Sliders with Provolone – $6

These sliders were Cass’ favorite dish of the night – a pair of little round buns sandwiching savory, moist meatballs completely enrobed in melted, stringy provolone cheese, layered with a thick dill pickle slice. Taking the first bite was a bit of a challenge (it’s so tall!) but it’s well worth the effort to get a bit of everything in each bite.

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips - $5

Coast Ceviche with Warm Tortilla Chips – $5

This was my favorite dish of the evening. With hearty, sizable chunks of  white fish marinated in lime juice with diced tomato, brunoise of shallots, and plenty of cilantro, the ceviche was the perfect light and refreshing summer dish. The warmed tortilla chips, in both regular and blue corn, added a colorful contrast.

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp - $6

Corn Meal Crusted Rock Shrimp – $6

Both of us agree that our second favorite of the night was the corn meal crusted rock shrimp. Nuggets of fresh, sweet shrimp coated in a thin crispy layer of corn meal (and fried, of course), these were too easy to just pop in your mouth and devour them all!

The Dessert Display

The Dessert Display

We were debating whether we should order more food when we recalled the cake display we saw right when we walked into the restaurant (genius, we thought!). It was hard for us to decide, so we asked the guy behind the counter to please bring us a slice of his favorite…

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake - $10 a slice

Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake – $10 a slice

…the Old Fashioned Six Layer Chocolate Cake from SusieCakes in Brentwood. An impressive monstrosity of super moist semisweet chocolate cake, thick and velvety ganache, and a thin layer of sugary frosting, this dessert was exactly what we needed to finish our meal. Surprisingly, it was not too sweet despite being so decadent and satisfying.

Saltwater Taffy

Saltwater Taffy

The offerings on the happy hour menu here are Coast are perfect for sharing with a friend. We were glad to have had the opportunity to try all of the delicious appetizers and by the time we polished off the last bite of cake, we were stuffed, though not too full for just one more little treat — a colorful piece of saltwater taffy! If you live or work in the Santa Monica area, definitely mosey on by to Shutters on the Beach and enjoy sunshine and HH here at Coast.

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Check out Coast: shuttersonthebeach.com

1 Pico Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90405

See their Yelp reviews here!

Happy National Cheesecake Day!

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Did you know July 30th is national cheesecake day in the US? We didn’t, and we certainly didn’t expect an estimated one hour wait for dinner today at our local Cheesecake Factory in Marina del Rey. Apparently every slice of cheesecake is 1/2 off today for the occasion! Luckily, the hostess clued us in to the adjoining beachfront bistro with the ambiance of private cabanas. We were seated immediately in a lovely corner cabana not 10 feet from the sand. A pleasant surprise and a tremendous improvement over the expected standardized decor. (Fun fact: did you know that every Cheesecake Factory location looks exactly the same decor-wise in order to give travelers a sense of familiarity?)

View from our little cabana

We decided to go for shared small plates and ordered the fried calamari, crab & artichoke dip, crispy crab bites, and margherita pizzette. The crab dip was our least favorite, as it was too creamy and not artichoke-y enough. It reminded us of a less salty version of the crab dip at Palomino’s in Westwood. The fried calamari was not particularly special, but it wasn’t too greasy and it went well with the garlic aioli (not so much with the cocktail sauce). It could really benefit from a good marinara sauce. The crispy crab bites and the pizzette were tied for our favs. For whatever reason, ever since I was 12 or so I have always remembered that Cheesecake Factory makes some pretty bomb crab cakes. These were mini-cakes that were wonderfully crispy-crunchy on the outside and flaky and flavorful on the inside. The pizzette was a nice little flatbread pizza topped with a bit of marinara sauce, generous helping of mozzarella, and lots of chopped basil. It turned out really well, especially considering they don’t have a woodfired oven.

"Tapas"-style dinner

“Tapas”-style dinner

Flatbread margherita pizza

Of course, we had to save room for dessert. I was very sad to discover that they sold out of the Oreo cheesecake, but the banana creme cheesecake was a delicious substitute. The bavarian banana creme layer was fluffy and light, a great complement to the rich original cheesecake underneath. It was almost too sweet for me, but the slices of fresh banana helped cut the sugary-ness. Martin went the traditional route with the fresh strawberry cheesecake, topped with three beautifully glazed, bright red berries.

Sweet, sweet indulgence

Classic goodness

We reveled in our luxurious-feeling cabana, engaging in deep conversation over a cappuccino and latte. Instead of traditional heat lamps, a few feet away from our table was an adorable little fire pit. What a fantastic way to spend a warm summer night!

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Check out The Cheesecake Factory: http://www.thecheesecakefactory.com

4142 Via Marina
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

See their Yelp reviews here.

The main building looks like any other Cheesecake Factory. Walk downward toward the beach to the separate hostess podium at the bistro side.