June 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

There are few things more satisfying than a big bowl of plump, juicy mussels. Wonderful with a baguette to soak up the savory broth. Just fine when served over linguine with a lusty shower of red pepper flakes. That’s the way HG/BSK did it last night and it was dish to remember. HG bought the mussels at the plant of a big mussel company in Morell (jut a few miles from HG/BSK’s ocean front home on Prince Edward Island). Last summer, HG was disappointed with PEI mussels. Tiny and flavorless. Woman at the mussels plant said summers are spawning season for mussels and they shrink in size. Assured HG that the early June mussels would be good eating. She was right. The two pound bag (about $2.25 in American dollars) provided some of the best bivalves HG/BSK ever tasted. Learned that knowing gourmands bought frozen mussels during the summer. These are harvested at a peak time and are tasty specimens.`A lesson learned.

Andrew McDonald Revisited

September 1st, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Andrew MacDonald, a robust and cheery Prince Edward Islander, is a master of mussels (and a dab hand with oysters). Check archive for HG post concerning his background. It was a sad day for HG when the Mussel Interpretive Center at St. Peters Landing closed its dining section helmed by Andrew and his sunny daughters. Farewell to great mussel chowder, steamed mussels and clams and perfectly shucked South Lake oysters. The happy news is that Andrew has opened a busy stand on the road in front his home (St. Peters Road/Route 2, East Morell). Among the offerings are mussels (of course), un-shucked South Lake oysters, local yellow beans, Island honey and corn plus a few other edibles. The stand operates on the honor system (with a few timely appearances by Andrew). As expected, everything Andrew sells is superior. HG stopped by a few days ago for corn, encountered Andrew and told him his mussel chowder was missed. Andrew made two liters for HG. Turned out as good as ever. Maybe better. Viva Andrew!!


PEI Mussel Disappointment

March 6th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

Mussels are (or used to be) HG’s favorite food. For almost half the year. HG/BSK live on Prince Edward Island, the delightful Canadian island where the oysters are among the best in the world. Scallops, clams, tuna, cod, hake are also wondrous. (In fact, the tuna is so good that it is often snapped up by Japanese buyers before HG/BSK get a chance to sample). PEI has been most famous for its excellent mussels (they are identified as such at fish counters and restaurants throughout the United States). When on PEI, HG/BSK get their mussels freshly harvested from nearby St. Peters Bay. They should be very good. They are not. Nothing wrong with the taste but the mussels are very small so the great funky joy of mussel eating is lost. (The PEI mussels sold at Whole Foods are both tiny and tasteless). What happened to those big, plump, juicy mussels HG/BSK relished for many years? HG is yet to get a satisfactory answer. If you want to taste great mussels you have to go to Belgium or France. Sad.


PEI Bivalves

August 25th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Among the pleasures of summer on Prince Edward Island is the abundance of excellent bivalves–oysters, clams, scallops and mussels. Prices of these good things are much lower than in the United Sates. And, they are just-caught, right-off-the-boat fresh. While two of SJ and EM’s Brooklyn pals (with three lively kids) were visiting PEI, a festive dinner of bivalves fed the group. First course was Malpeque oysters shucked by HG. These were a revelation. They tasted like the very best Fines de Claire HG had consumed at Paris brasseries. HG usually favors Colville Bay oysters in the fall and late summer (they are a bit milky from spawning during mid-summer) or Savage Bay oysters, plump and mild. Malpeques are now first choice. They have long been the oyster most exported from PEI. At a 1900 food exhibition in Paris, they were awarded a prize as the world’s best tasting oyster (the flavorful guys haven’t gone downhill since then). BSK grilled some of the oysters on the barbecue (Modest disagreement. BSK and EM love grilled oysters. HG demurs). Earlier in the day, there was clamming on the shore of St. Mary’s Bay. The Brooklyn group learned fast and some 54 quahog were dug. They were steamed with four pounds of mussels. All of the bivalve juices enhanced BSK’s savory sauce of olive oil, garlic, onions, herbs, etc. Mussels, clams and sauce topped perfectly al dente Garofalo linguine. A caveat from HG. The mussels were disappointing. The flavor was pleasant but the mussels were tiny, a far cry from the plump juicy mussels that have long been a PEI signature. What has happened? The long, harsh winter? Ecological changes in St. Peters Bay and other mussel farming locales? HG hopes conditions change so the mussels return to their former splendor.


Cataplan Seafood Stew.

October 27th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

What’s a Cataplan? It’s a hinged, oval-shaped copper pot. Cataplans are used throughout Spain and Portugal to make seafood stews. It’s a bit tricky to handle (watch out for hot steam when you snap open the hinged cover) but it’s the perfect culinary device to get all the flavor out of steamed seafood. BSK used it last night to very good effect. As usual she started with a flavorful saute of sweet onions, garlic, chopped pancetta and, best of all, sprigs of tarragon from BSK’s kitchen garden. Sliced fingerling potatoes from neighbor organic farmer Gary G. were put into the mix to soften. Then came St. Ours Clam Broth. This is a really flavorful clam broth powder (reconstitute with boiling water) that’s much better than the bottled stuff you get in supermarkets. Next into the cataplan were Atlantic cherrystone clams. Then Prince Edward Island mussels. When all of the bivalves were just about open, BSK tossed in some chunks of cod fillet. Served ourselves from the cataplan (which was immediately locked again to keep second helpings hot). Dipped crusty bread and had a joyous time. Take a tip from HG and the folks on the Iberian peninsula and buy a cataplan.

Bivalve Lunch

July 24th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

In typical Prince Edward Island style (meaning NO pretense and barely a smidgen of irony), St. Peter’s Bay has a fine spot for lunch with the deeply appetizing name of the Mussel Interpretive Center. The center was originally operated by the Province government to showcase PEI’s Mussel economy but — surprise, surprise! — it lost a bunch of money. It is now run by a retired Mussel Man who, amongst the fascinating exhibits on the life cycle of mussels and the miraculous leaps in Mussel farming technology, operates a food stand.

HG dined there and was thrilled. Big platter of juicy, steamed hard shell clams (quahogs). Big platter of steamed, plump mussels. Melted butter. Lemon juice. Tabasco. Flaky biscuits. All for a total of ten bucks. Beat the heat and come to P.E.I. Enchanting, gentle and affordable.

Mussels: Look For That PEI Identity.

May 3rd, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Mussels are a splendid food. Relatively inexpensive. Tasty. Healthy. But, heed HG: Only Prince Edward Island Mussels are worth eating. Like the Island itself, PEI mussels are a gentle taste underscored by a firm body. They are invariably sand and grit free and their mellow flavor marries perfectly with myriad sauces and preparations. Maine mussels seem to lack substance. New Zealand mussels are over sized and tasteless.

Here’s how HG prepares mussels: Soften onions and garlic in a spacious saute pan. When soft, add the mussels. Add a bottle of clam juice (or some fish stock if you have it) and some white wine. Mix with salt and red pepper flakes plus chopped Italian parsley. Cover. Turn up heat to moderate high and cook until the mussels are open. Top with some more parsley. You can serve these as a starter with some crusty bread to sop up the sauce; for something more substantial, cook some linguine and add the pasta to the steamed mussels.

Always cook more mussels than you can eat. Take the left overs out of their shells and refrigerate. Next day mix them with some mustard mayonnaise. You’ve got a great lunch or dinner appetizer.

The frozen in time New York bistro, Le Veau D’or, always served a big freebie of mussels in mustard mayonnaise. In days of yore, HG would consume them with an icy martini. That would be followed by Beaujolais and steak frites. Nice workday lunch. If HG attempted it today, HG would be off to slumberland before putting down knife and fork.

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