Baked Mussels

Beautifully simple, reassuringly rustic and moreish to boot. Here’s my recipe for open-baked mussels that my children can’t get enough of. It’s a reasonably cheap dish that’s definitely crowd-pleasing comfort food, and yet I believe it to be equally worthy of any dinner party.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mussels
  • Hunk of sourdough (to make breadcrumbs)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Bunch of parsley
  • 1 tomato, deseeded and diced (concasse)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 70g ham, chopped
  • 2 banana shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 125ml white wine (or water)

Method:

  1. Clean and sort through your mussels, removing beards and discarding any open (dead) ones. ready for the pot
  2. Pop the mussels in a pot with a sprinkling of shallot, parsley stalks and the white wine (or water). Cover with a lid and steam the mussels for 4 minutes.
  3. Discard any mussels that didn’t open during cooking.
  4. Remove half of each mussel shell and lay the full halves out on a baking sheet. half shell mussels
  5. Blitz the sourdough bread in a food processor to make a crumb. mix in the rest of the finely diced shallot, crushed garlic, chopped parsley leaves, ham, lemon zest and diced tomato. Add a good glug of olive oil and spoon the mix over the mussels. topped and ready to go
  6. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown. topped mussels baked on the half shell
  7. Serve with french fries and mayonnaise for a glorious experience.

oven baked mussels

Faith Restored

The hunt for real food is top of my agenda every time I visit the USA on a work trip.

It never fails to shock me just how difficult it is to get hold of food and drink that isn’t highly processed and loaded with corn syrup.  Obviously America is a big place and I shouldn’t make such sweeping statements, but I’m usually confined to the big cities.

How do the locals manage it…?  Generally, they don’t.  Enough said.

The lack of healthy options is insane – hotel fruit bowls are too often ‘just for show’, and breakfast contains enough calories for an entire day.  Whole Foods is usually my saviour; we’ll make a beeline there to pick up supplies shortly after landing.

The standard diet in America hits me hard.  My teeth actually ache from all the sugar, and after a few days of Eggs Benedict and enough beef to march an army across the globe, the desire for anything even slightly green becomes insatiable. Maybe my metabolism would adjust after a few weeks/months.  I’m certainly not willing to test the hypothesis.

And then there’s the exception to my dietary principles…  Adventure.  Anything that’s both local and new is simply irresistible. So, after the misfortune of experiencing Chick n’ Ruth’s of Man v’s Food fame, all was looking fairly bleak until Cantler’s Riverside Inn stepped into the ring…

This place is a veritable oasis.  Reassuringly understated and refreshingly unpretentious, Cantler’s of Annapolis is exactly what it is: A Crab House.  In my eyes, the simple things tend to be the best.  No fuss.

Simple dining American Style

American Rustic

Given there were a few of us sharing a bench in the casual family atmosphere, we made the most of it and sampled an array of dishes, accompanied of course by cold local beers.

Oysters Riverside at Cantlers

Of all the oysters I’ve ever eaten, I can’t believe that I’ve never had them baked before.  These little bad boys were baked with horseradish, bacon, jalapeno and cheddar.  I should have ordered more.

Side salad and Drunk’n Mussels?  Go on then.

side salad

drunk'n mussles

And now for the main event.  I probably didn’t need to order both the King Crab and the Snow Crab whilst sampling the local Blue Maryland crabs, but hey, adventure!

Snow Crab and King Crab

Steamed to perfection and served with some rather large onion rings, coleslaw, Old Bay and fried green tomatoes (we are in America after all).

The Old Bay seasoning is a local Maryland delight traditionally made with paprika, celery salt, mustard, bay leaf, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cloves, allspice, mace, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom.

blue swimmer crabs

It’s all fairly healthy if you can resist the drawn butter with its nutty allure.

Now here’s a new one on me that I’ll be replicating this Christmas; ketchup laced with horseradish… stunning.

 horseradish ketchup

This place even has free docking for customers arriving by boat!  Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Annapolis, hell, if you’re ever in Maryland.  Top marks.

Have a look at http://www.cantlers.com for more info.  458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21409.