Crumb-Topped Mussels – Inspired By Oysters Rockefeller

I love seafood.

... with lemon thyme and garlic and butter and cheese and mmmm!!!

And for all that can be said of many other foods too, seafood – shellfish specifically – has a special, brightly worshipped place in my heart.  I love the briny sea-fresh smell of it, and the colors and shapes and the tender gristle-free flesh that ranges from sweet to spicy and all, all of which goes so amazingly with garlic or lemon or preferably both.

So, when I saw the absolutely beautiful giant New Zealand greenshell mussels at the local supermarket, I immediately grabbed a bag and shoved a few greedy handfuls in (they sell them by weight – how great is that?).  Having dragged my prize home and reverently placed it in the deep-freeze, I next contemplated a worthy use for such bounty.  No boring steam or poaching would do for these plump, juicy beautes:

New Zealand Greenshell Mussels - Thawed

Something better had to be done – and so I have turned to one of my restaurant favorites – oysters Rockefeller – for inspiration.  The best part of this style of cooking shellfish-on-a-shell is that it is ridiculously easy and the results are both, wonderful to eat and tend to look great on the plate (so this works fantastically well as a party appetizer, or an easy meal).

All I have done with these mussels is thaw and drain them (shake to get rid of excess water), lay onto a foiled baking dish, top with the crumb topping (recipe follows), and bake with top heat in a 225°C preheated oven for 10 minutes or until topping is softened and browned on top.

Oh, and eat, obviously!

Crumb Topping for seafood-on-the-shell:  (tops 10 large mussels)

(I imagine this will go fabulously with oysters, or with scallops as well as the mussels.)

  • 10-15 short sprigs of thyme (I just gave a small haircut to my lemon thyme bush that lives on the windowsill)
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and your love of garlic)
  • a pinch of red chili flakes (because I love those)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter (cold, cut into small pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons dried grated parmesan or other hard cheese – I used a good handful of home-freeze-dried grated cheese
  • 2 tablespoons (preferably wholegrain) bread crumbs (I realized I did not have any, and tossed in a couple of broken-up pieces of Finn Crisp instead)

Note:  a teaspoon of brandy, anise-scented liqueur, or white wine would not do the sauce any harm – and perhaps some good. And as usual, since this is my improvisation, I’d say it is by no means set in stone.  Adjust, modify seasonings, whatever you like – it’s to your heart’s content you are cooking, not mine!

How-To:

  • Toss garlic, chili flakes, thyme and salt into a mini-chopper and process until chopped finely
  • Add cheese and pulse to mix, then add butter and pulse to crumb size.
  • Add breadcrumbs and process until mixture comes together to a butter consistency (spreadable with a butter knife).
  • Top seafood by placing pats of mixture over the meat.

Bake and serve with a green salad and some buttered bread.  I’d add a glass of a fresh white wine (a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio) to this, if it weren’t a workday lunch.  Barring that, my drink of choice today was Japanese green tea – Sencha, the seaweed-scented one.  And there you go, gourmet lunch in all of 20 minutes of effort!

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