I try to eat fairly lightly, and that means I don't reach for cream every time I cook. Cream is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a crutch masking the flavors of the food it is paired with rather than elevating them. I tend to use cream judiciously, with the precision of a rifle, saving the cream cannon for ice cream. Then, one day, while developing mussel recipes, I hit on a major exception to this rule. It was on this auspicious day that Cream met Guinness, and a romance was born. Guinness elevated Cream into a decadent, malty, richer version of itself, and Cream elevated Guinness by rounding its caramel and chocolate edge with a warm white blanket. They lived happily ever after.
Serves 4 as a light dinner
2 pounds mussels
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup Guinness extra stout
3/4 cup cream
1 teaspoon freshly grated or prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Good, crusty bread
Scrub and debeard the mussels. (Click here for a how-to video.)
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil; when it is hot, add the shallots and salt. Saute for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are lightly browned. Add the cayenne, Guinness, cream, horseradish, honey and mussels. Toss the mussels, coating them with the sauce. Cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir the mussels, and when most of them have opened, transfer them with a slotted spoon to a large serving bowl. (Any mussels that do not open can be pried open using an oyster shucker or discarded.) Boil the sauce gently until reduced by half. Turn off the heat, swirl in the butter and parsley, taste for seasoning, and pour the sauce over the mussels. Serve with bread to dip in the Guinness cream.
Pairing: Guinness beer, but of course.
From Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast by Becky Selengut. Copyright 2011 Becky Selengut. Reprinted by permission of Sasquatch Books.