Your Mussels Look Great In that LBD

There's a Little Black Dress of dinner party dishes. It has an understated elegance, is easy to slip into, and pairs well with a nice bottle of white wine and a pearl necklace. It is always festively appropriate, and never fails to impress.

You'll never guess.

No, really.  You won't, because it's not what you think.

Ok, done guessing?

The answer: Mussels.


Mussels are actually very versatile, and take well to flavoring. I'm lucky enough to live 2 blocks from a fantastic Mussel bar, St. Arnold's, which I don’t go to nearly as much as I should. It took me almost a full year of living in D.C to find this place, and it was only by chance. After a Hawkeye loss and a night of drinking, my friend and I not-so-soberly decided that we wanted mussels. Right. Then. Nothing could get in our way. So we called a friend of a friend who recommended a restaurant that he swore had the best mussel pots a couple neighborhoods over, and we jumped in a cab at midnight and talked to the cabbie about mussels and barnacles. (Bless him, that wonderful cab driver.)

St. Arnold's has a fantastic mussel selection and beer list. (Actually, I believe they're mainly a bar with a mussel specialty on the side, which absolutely blows my mind.) Before I go any further, I know what you’re thinking. Beer is not Paleo. You’re absolutely right, it is not.  But what have I always said? Live a little. That’s what I say. Always. 

At St. Arnold’s, the types of mussels go on and on: Thai Basil Mussels, Italian red pepper mussels, duck fat mussels… yummmm


Surprisingly, mussels are so incredibly easy to make on your own. My favorite variation to make isn't a variation at all. It's the classic way, the Little Black Dress of mussels: the French way. (With a little Paleo twist, of course.)

When I'm trying hard to impress a dinner guest, but want to make it look effortless, I make this recipe. Also, it pairs well with a killer pair of black heels, a string of pearls, apron, and, you guessed it, a little black dress.

Bonus points if you light a candle for a, hmmmm, "Je ne sais crois..."


LBD Mussels

Serves 3 generously


  • 3 lbs. fresh, live mussels*
  • 1/2 finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1/2 head finely chopped, fresh garlic
  • 6 tbsp. fresh, chopped parsley plus extra to garnish
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. duck fat (optional, you can substitute this with more butter, ghee, or another fat of your choice)
  • 8 oz. canned coconut cream
  • Salt to taste
  1. Chop shallot, garlic, and parsley.
  2. Add olive oil to pan and heat until shimmering.
  3. Add shallot, garlic, and parsley to oil until fragrant and just starting to brown.
  4. Add white wine and simmer in pan.
  5. While oil-wine mixture is simmering, add butter and duck fat. Whisk until melted, then reduce heat to low and let wine mixture reduce for a few minutes.
  6. Add coconut cream and simmer until sauce is well melded.
  7. Add mussels to pot and cover tightly with lid. Let mussels steam for about 10-15 minutes. Stir mussels briefly every few minutes.
  8. Mussels are done when the majority have steamed open.**
  9. Garnish with parsley springs for color. 


*Mussels must be bought and served the same day. They can be stored in the fridge for some time, but they should be placed over ice in a bowl or container with open air. Mussels should never be covered in plastic. They are alive, so they will suffocate if they are derived of oxygen.

** Mussels are done with they have fully opened when steaming. However, in any batch of mussels, they're will be a couple that do not open. These are mussels that have died before steaming, and they should never be pried open and consumed. They can make you very sick.

Attractive meals results in attractive company

Attractive meals results in attractive company


Note: traditional mussels are served with either crusty bread or frites. (French fries.) Sweet potato fries don't work well with this, so I either give in and scoop up the sauce with some bread, or I will pour it over some white rice if I can't afford to go off the Paleo rails. Your choice, but don't waste that sauce. It's duckfatty gold. 

A Home is not a Home Without a Rhino

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t get anything done in the week. By the time I wake up late (every morning), I am stressfully hurrying from one thing to another until perhaps the hour before my bedtime where I force myself to chill the heck out so I can actually fall asleep:

 

The past few weeks have been so hectic for me (half marathons, visitors, traveling) that I have not updated this blog as much as I wanted to. I was just talking to a friend this past week (over Cinco de Mayo margs after we ditched the gym, naturally) about how we feel tricked about real life. Kathy and I met in grad school, when our lives were consumed with taking 10 hours to write an evaluation, spending late nights/early morning in libraries, and spending the 3 weeks surrounding midterms and finals on a coffee IV. Luckily, we survived, and have moved onto spending time together doing more fun things. Like buying these necessary animal busts for our homes:

Horse bust takes on D.C. 

Horse bust takes on D.C. 

Kathy and I assumed that after we graduated, we would have enormous amounts of free time after our day jobs. We could work out everyday! We could go to happy hour whenever we wanted! We could go on all the trips we've been dying to do! Ha. Hahahaha. No.

We feel tricked by life. Lies. Complete lies! Whoever has a rockin’, balanced life outside of a 40 hour a week workday is one talented soul. I am so non-productive outside of work that I rely on my weekends to do things like food prep, recipe creation, apartment cleaning, and just generally having a social life. I am so dependent on my time off on weekends, that when I need to go into work over a weekend, my following week is filled with baby carrots, avocados, and wine for dinner. Because that’s obviously how you stay Paleo when on a time crunch  ;)

Amidst the workweek chaos, I’ve been trying to up my vegetable intake lately. This has been a challenge. A couple weeks ago I almost broke down at lunch when I remembered that I had packed myself a.n.o.t.h.e.r. s.a.l.a.d. Since then, I’ve realized that I need to trick myself into eating my vegetables in less obvious ways than just downing a plate of leaves. (I’m 26 going on 6 sometimes.) Recently, I’ve realized that I can drink my vegetables in smoothie form. (Ummm duh, I am clearly late on this trend.) Smoothies are perfect because I can make a ton at one time, they freeze well, and I can grab one as a literally am running out the door in the morning. Since the weather is starting to change from spring to summer, here is one of my new favorite creations, and you can’t even taste the vegetables:

Paleo Spinach Pina Colada

Serves 2

  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • ½ cup coconut cream or coconut milk
  • 1 ½ cup whole spinach leaves
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple*
  • ¾  cup frozen strawberries*
  • ¼ cup ice cubes

*You can swap out fresh fruit instead of frozen if you have that on hand. Just make sure to increase the ice to ensure that you smoothie is icy and cold.

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender with the ice and fruit at the bottom of the blender.
  2. Pulse until most of the ice and fruit has been broken into small pieces.
  3. Stop blending and stir with a large spoon every few second to ensure that all the spinach leaves incorporate and blend into the drink. Once everything has started to break down a bit more, blend on higher speeds until well blended and frothy.

 


*As you can see, I styled my drink with a lemon wedge, when it absolutely has no lemon in it. Why? Because it looked cute and I used all my strawberries and pineapples before I thought of the necessity of a garnish. I am full of logic, I know.