Did you know mussels have seasons?
Mid-winter heralds the start of the new season, when the current crop are small, soft and sweet. While some home cooks get a little scared about using shellfish, mussels have become one of the easiest seafoods to cook in recent years, with technology that keeps them alive and fresh in vacuum-sealed bags – all you have to do is rip open the bag, toss them in a pot for 3-5 minutes with a little white wine to kick things off and voila! dinner is served.
Kinkawooka Shellfish from Boston Bay on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula are celebrating the new season by teaming up with chef Mike McEnearney from Kitchen By Mike .
Over the coming week, June 21-27, Mike will be cooking a different $10 mussel dish at his restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Roseberry. He’s using ingredients great local ingredients such as cider from Young Henry’s and butter and creme fraiche from Pepe Saya.
Over the weekend, you’ll even catch Pepe himself, along with Kinkawooka Mussels fisherman Andy Puglisi and seafood providore John Susman cooking up mussels to try in the gardens at Kitchen by Mike.
One more tip if you want to impress friends: tell them you can tell the sex of a mussel just by looking at it. It’s easy – the girls are bright orange and the boys are a creamy white colour. They taste the same.
But if you can’t make it, Mike has very kindly shared some of his recipes with Business Insider so you can try them at home.
Mussels a la Mike
40ml extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot, chopped
2 sprigs thyme, picked
1 stick celery, chopped
5 eshallots, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, chopped
400ml Young Henrys cider
2kg Kinkawooka mussels
300g Pepe Saya creme fraiche
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, fennel and picked thyme leaves and sauté for 2 minutes or until tender. Turn up the heat, add the mussels and cider, and put the lid on for 1 minute, shaking the pot occasionally. Remove the lid and check to see if the mussels have opened – if not, return the lid for a moment longer.
Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon into a separate bowl and allow the mussel stock to reduce by half. Add the creme fraiche and chopped parsley and adjust the flavour with a squeeze of lemon and a good grind of pepper.
Tip the mussels back into the pot and toss through until they are well coated with the sauce. Serve with lots of bread.
Mike’s Mussel Chowder with Curry Oil
600g Kinkawooka mussels
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
175g bacon, cut into lardons
1 small onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
75g crème fraiche
Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons curry oil
For the curry oil
1 ½ tablespoons medium curry powder
125ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
To make curry oil, gently warm the curry powder in a dry frying pan until it is aromatic (watch it carefully as it burns easily) – then add the oil and immediately remove it from the heat. Leave to cool and infuse for an hour before straining the infused oil through a muslin-lined sieve so there is no powder left in the finished oil.
Place a large saucepan with a lid over medium heat. Tip in the mussels and half of the wine and put the lid on to steam the mussels open, shaking the pan regularly. When all the mussels have opened, remove from the heat. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the mussel meat from the shells and strain their cooking juices through a muslin-lined sieve into a measuring jug.
Heat half of the butter in a small frying pan over low-medium heat and cook the bacon until crisp, then lift them out and leave to drain on a paper towel.
Strain the fat from the frying pan into a clean saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until soft and translucent. Add the potato and stir for a minute, then add the remaining wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add enough water to the mussel juices to make 750 ml (3 cups), then add to the pan. Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes or until the potato is tender.
Blend the soup with a stick blender, adding the rest of the butter and the crème fraiche, until very smooth. Gently reheat the soup, stirring through the cream and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide the clams among four bowls and ladle over the hot soup. Scatter with the bacon and drizzle with curry oil.
Saffron and mussel tart
400 g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Handful baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ carrot, chopped 1 sprig thyme
1 stick celery
5 eshallots, diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ fennel bulb, chopped
100ml white wine
1 kg Kinkawooka mussels
1 pinch saffron
100ml double cream
3 egg yolks
Pinch of ground pepper
Grease a tart tin with a removable base. On a lightly floured bench top, roll out the pastry to a 3 mm thick circle large enough to fit in the tin with a slight overhang all round. Roll the pastry around the rolling pin and carefully ease into the prepared tin, using a pastry brush to gently press the pastry into the corners. Do not trim excess pastry yet. Place the tart shell in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C.
Place the spinach in a steamer and steam for 30 seconds or until wilted. Transfer spinach to a towel to remove moisture and allow to cool.
Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, fennel and picked thyme leaves and sauté for 2 minutes or until tender. Turn up the heat, add the mussels and wine, and put the lid on for 1 minute, shaking the pot occasionally. Remove the lid and check to see if the mussels have opened – if not, return the lid for a moment longer.
Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon into a separate bowl. Add saffron to the pot and allow the mussel stock to reduce to half a cup. Add a squeeze of lemon then allow to cool.
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