Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fire & Mussels

Some photos and thoughts from last weekend's trip, to my mom's house on Whidbey Island.

The first order of business was installing the firepit, which (long-time readers and attendees of the semi-annual Fire & Beer parties will remember) used to be in our backyard in Brooklyn. Emily ordered it several years ago from the same place that supplies fire rings to the national and state park campgrounds. The thing weighs like 200 pounds and it was kind of a pain to acquire; we were not about to leave it in New York. When we left, we dug it up and brought it with us across the country, and we've been waiting for some nice weather to install it at Whidbey.

Here it is in action Saturday night (pictured left to right are my aunt Shan, Emily, my mom, and my uncle Perry, who lives next door to my mom on Penn Cove). Most of the wood you pick up off the beach is cedar, which smells really good when it burns.

Walking on the beach the next day, we came across this Oystercatcher sitting on top of a mussel-covered rock. Penn Cove is not a big body of water, but (I mentioned this in passing previously) it's one of the largest producers of mussels in the entire country; when you order mussels in a restaurant, if they aren't from Brazil or somewhere, they're often from Penn Cove or the Canadian maritime province of Prince Edward Island. My impression is that they used to be considered kind of a trash shellfish, but they finally seem to be getting their due lately.

The office of Penn Cove Shellfish is at the end of this narrow dock just down the beach. The FedEx truck actually drives down the dock.

On the other side of the cove are all these mussel rafts (click the images to enlarge).

The mussels attach themselves to these discs (which sometimes wash up on the beach), and the workers go around to the rafts and haul them up.

(This photo is from Penn Cove Shellfish website.)

My uncle Perry is a painter (more on him later) and did a series depicting the mussel workers.

Huh. I thought I was going to post a bunch of photos but then I realized they were all about the firepit and mussels. I guess we might as well go with it. In closing, here's a mussel recipe I am making up on the spot, but which I guarantee would be good:

Mussels with Chorizo, Jalapeños and Tequila
- Half a stick of butter.
- A bunch of garlic, minced.
- Half a pound of chorizo.
- Six cans of Tecate or other Mexican beer.
- About a cup of sliced green onions
- A small can of sliced jalapeños with seeds. I recommend La Moreña but any canned jalapeños that also have carrots in them will work.
- Two shots of tequila. You can use the rail for this, i.e., don't waste your cabo wabo, dude.
- All the juice from one lime.
- About 40 mussels (maybe 1.5 lbs), scrubbed and de-bearded (which they should be already if you get them from a market).

How to cook it:
- Melt the butter in a large pot.
- Add the garlic (cook till it smells good and is golden).
- Add the chorizo (cook till brown).
- Add the green onions and the jalapeños.
- Add one can of beer.
- Salt the rim of the other can of beer; open it and put a slice of lime in it. Drink it. Pour out a lil' for me.
- Wait one minute and then add the tequila. You didn't drink it already did you? We don't drink the rail, we drink Hornitos. Stick to your beer and pay attention.
- Add the lime juice.
- Add the mussels and cover the pot. Let them steam for about 8 minutes or so, or until all the shells are open.
- Transfer the mussels to a large bowl without the sauce. Throw out all the mussels that have not opened.
- Pour the other stuff over the top of the mussels.
- Eat it.
- Have some good sourdough bread on hand to soak up the juice when you're done.
- Find the rest of that sixer and ride easy, bro. Summer is on the way.


Lee said...

looks like next trip up we buy a license, get the mussels,you cook. that was one fun weekend Mr. Firebug

Anonymous said...

pics of the mussel boats are awesome