I love seafood.
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:
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!
- 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!