Celebration Without the Costs – Fresh Blue Mussels Impress for Less

(NC)—The holidays are about getting together with friends and family to enjoy delicious food, sparkling beverages and festive décor. But if you’re like most Canadians, you know how quickly entertaining costs can add up, especially when it comes to the food and drinks.

That doesn’t have to put a damper on your holiday entertaining plans, says Chef Lindsay Cameron Wilson, who entertains frequently in her own home.

“If you plan well you can host a wonderful evening with delicious appetizers and drinks,” says Wilson. “You just need to stay away from the high cost items and leverage the ones that give the impression of extravagance. I always suggest fresh blue mussels because they’re festive, affordable and delicious-perfect for a holiday appetizer or main course.”

Wilson adds the other great thing about mussels is how easy they are to prepare and the variety of ways to make them. “Fresh mussels take well to many different tastes – from spicy Thai, to creamy white wine and garlic, to a zesty pesto.”

She suggests Mussels with Shaved Fennel and Saffron as a special holiday dish.
Mussels with Shaved Fennel and Saffron
5 lbs / 2.27 kg fresh blue mussels

1 fennel bulb

2 tbsp / 30 ml butter

1 tbsp/ 15 ml olive oil

1 medium onion, finely sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Pinch saffron strands, soaked in a tbsp warm water (a pinch of turmeric can be substituted)

1 bay leaf

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup / 250 ml white wine

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 loaf of crusty bread to soak up juices

Rinse fresh, blue mussels in a colander and set aside. Discard any mussels that do not close when tapped.

Trim stalks from fennel and using a vegetable peeler, remove blemishes from outer layer. Reserve fennel fronds for garnish. Finely slice fennel into thin strands using a mandolin or knife.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add fennel, onion, garlic and sauté over medium low heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Stir in saffron, bay leaf, sea salt and pepper to taste. Turn up the heat to medium high. Add wine and remaining butter; stir, then add the mussels. Cover and leave to steam for 5 to 7 minutes, or until mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open. Toss everything together with lemon zest and juice. Transfer mussels to individual plates or a serving dish. Top with reserved fennel fronds.

“Fresh blue mussels are perfect for entertaining because they’re healthy, affordable and a special treat. Best of all they can be prepared in multiple ways, so you can be creative in how you cook them. Or embrace the simple approach by steaming them and serving them with butter, crusty bread and a bottle of wine,” says Wilson.

She adds that during the holiday season, when it’s easy to overindulge, mussels can be a light, healthy appetizer or main course. Mussels are low in fat and carbohydrates, the perfect break to the traditional, but filling holiday foods.

Get revved up for holiday entertaining by visiting the Mussel Industry Council website at www.discovermussels.com . The site features information and cooking tips to prepare fresh blue cultured mussels for the budget conscious host.