Mussels with Smoked Paprika Aioli

on Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now for something stolen, changed, and about to be claimed as a bit more of my own.

Chow had a recipe for Broiled Mussels with Sweet Paprika Aioli which I loved the idea of.

This goes to a certain question of eco-friendliness, as the seafood that makes its way onto the American table is often among the worst for fish stocks, or the environment.  Salmon, tuna, and shrimp are disastrous as dining choices, and they are what you inevitably find in supermarkets, and other fish are sometimes incredibly expensive to salve the conscience.

There is hope, though, and it comes in the form of the humble Blue Mussel.  I can hear you now, there are plenty of people who just plain dislike mussels, and my wife was among them.  The chow folks do not lie, this will change the minds of people who don't think they like mussels.  Here's how they find out (or you find out) that there was something you didn't know...

Mussels are farmed, but the farming is done in such a way that there are neglible environmental consequences, and they represent a limited carbon stream: filter feeding, and grown local to the point of consumption, they are a poster child for sound and responsible aquaculture.

Follow the recipe, if you want to follow it start to finish, more power to you.

However, there were a few changes I made, namely the use of smoked paprika, which I've been absolutely in love with recently, and looking for any excuse to use, a bit of ancho chili and chipotle chili powder in substitution, and aioli made from (gasp!) pre-made mayonnaise.

Making your own mayonnaise will be covered in a subsequent post, but for now it's not only a huge headache, it's also possibly more expensive than just using it from the good people at Hellman's.  I hate to admit it, but there are times where I can't compete from scratch, and where I do a worse job from financial and aesthetic perspectives.

The proportions listed for the aioli are reasonably good, but with this you need to follow your own palate above all else.  Much of this process is down to what you happen to like... more dijon?  Less?  More Garlic?  Straight mayo with chocolate chips?  Think WAY out of the box, if you want.

Take it as a template, and with any recipe begin by doing it pretty much from the book once, and then freelancing a bit.  This truth does not obtain for pastry or bread, things that are done inside the oven demand rules, while things done "above the oven" on top of the stove demand flexibility... as the saying goes you are either a cook, or a baker, and this is exactly what they mean by that.  Baking demands measurement, cooking demands some degree of slopping things around and poking things to see if they are done.  I'm not much of a baker, despite the fact that both pieces of cooking so far have involved the oven; don't be fooled, okay?  I think they're on here because they are what I'm weakest at, instead of the other way around.

The time estimates are reasonably accurate, and it is a fair amount of manual prep, but it is tremendous once it's done, and other than opening and stripping the mussels, it's really not too challenging.

Doing this with a pastry/piping bag, if you have one, is probably worth it... you would replace food prep time with dishwasher time, or handwash time.  It's your call, I spooned them this time, but next time will do this with a piping bag and keep the baking sheet cleaner.  I wish I had had parsley on hand, but I didn't let it stop me, don't let it stop you either...

And by the way, I still haven't convinced my in-laws to eat mussels.   My wife, she was brought around to seeing the light, though.



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