Friday, May 10, 2013

Chef, or Food Writer? -- Spicy White Wine Mussels

A conversation I had with a friend:
"I have a great opportunity for you!"
"Really? About what?"
"Your cooking!"
"My... cooking? Or you mean writing? My blog?"
"No, your cooking. [the restaurant across the street from my community theater] is starting a program where they let local chefs into their kitchen for a night for special menus! You could make a menu and open it up to their customers and make it yourself in their kitchen! I gave them your name."
"But... I'm not a chef, I'm a writer. A food writer, but still--"
"But you cook."
"I do but--"
"It'd be a great opportunity to promote your book, you should think about it!"
So, I thought about it.

Not that I ever thought seeing my dishes on someone's paid-for plate would ever be a reality for me, or even something I was remotely interested in. After all, I want to write about food, not make it for other people in the very intimidating restaurant business where as a waitress I was once stiffed a tip for not letting my table purchase alcohol without proper ID. And, remember, just a few years ago I could hardly make toast.

Me, in the kitchen. Running a restaurant kitchen?
Hard to picture...

When I began this blog, I was not one to think up a recipe on my own. If you go back far enough--please, don't, the pictures are abhorrent--you'll mostly see either recipes pulled from cookbooks in my personal collection or Google searches, or simply links to outside recipes since I didn't feel right copy and pasting. I was unsure of my abilities in the kitchen, and refused to stray from what was written lest I create something inedible.

Random Cat Picture to break up text!
My cat, Finn. Duh.

These days, I'm happy to say, I find myself rarely following a recipe word-for-word. I'll glance at it once or twice, then search for similar recipes to compare cooking times and techniques, and when I have the bare bones of the process down I just go wild. More often than not, I end up with something ranging from absolutely delicious to at least mostly enjoyably edible. Recent posts link back to content I've "adapted," often showing little resemblance to the original content.

I look back on these two years of food blogging and am so proud of myself for coming this far. Could I compile a menu of recipes for an actual restaurant? Why not? I'm already conceiving 100 recipes for my cookbook (which is being pitched by my agent RIGHT NOW OMG), I already have dinner parties for friends about once a month. Though my timing isn't the best--appetizers and main course should not come out at the same time--timing is something that I can fix.

For you dog lovers, Random Dog Picture to Break Up Text.
Random Dog is my roomate's dog, Baxter.

I think, to be a truly well rounded food writer, one needs to understand all different angles and aspects of careers in food. I'd love to be a food critic for a day, or be on a farm tending to vegetables and livestock, just to know what those sides of the industry are like. Running a restaurant for a night would surely put me out of my comfort zone, but even if I failed miserably I'd be all the better for it and my writing would improve. This goal I have of being a food writer (or publisher!) as a full time career feels so close, but I know I still have so far to go. Chef and writer are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and perhaps to be one or the other you must appreciate both.

So, I'll think about it. I know I COULD do it, I'm always up for the challenge. The idea is apparently still in the planning stages, so I have time. We'll see if they call.

In other news, my play opens this weekend! If you're in the Western Mass/Western New England area you should come check it out. Free to all under 18, $10 otherwise. I play Tom Snout

Rockin' the I'm-not-a-lady hair hiding hat.

And Cobweb the Fairy.


Midsummer was always one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, probably because it was the only one I read in high school where someone did not die. It's hilarious, to say the least.

Oh and, because I apparently hate having free time, I just applied to direct a short play this summer. We'll see how that goes, and if I'm chosen, as I've never directed before (only acted). Again, it'd be a really fun challenge!


And now, back to recipe development. These mussels were on sale for just $1.99 per pound, and though I'd never made mussels before, the deal was too good to pass up! I knew that I loved spicy mussels, and I loved mussels in white wine sauce rather than the heavy tomato sauce they sometimes come in at restaurants, but could not find a recipe that combined the two. So, I made my own. The results were pretty fantastic.

Spicy White Wine Mussels
(Used Ina Garten's Recipe for times and liquid amounts for steaming)

  • 1.5 lbs mussels, rinsed and de-bearded
  • 1 tbs butter + 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tsp capers, optional
  • salt and pepper, to taste


-In a dutch oven or large saucepan (make sure you have a lid handy), heat the butter and olive oil until combined. Stir in the onion, garlic, pepper flakes, cayenne, and chili oil and heat until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant.

-Add the wine and broth and stir until combined and just barely simmering. Add the mussels and cover immediately. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until mussels have opened and cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and capers. Let sit for two minutes with the cover on. Remove any mussels that have not opened and serve hot with sauce spooned over the top.

8 comments:

  1. That sounds like a great opportunity, but so so so so terrifying! Just the fact of making things to order and having to make more than one plate look exactly the same... sounds stressful! But you seem like the type of person that enjoys pushing herself :)

    PS yay for random kitty pictures!

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  2. You should totally do the restaurant thing if you can! I bet it'd be a lot of fun and great exposure. I love mussels, so cheap, delicious and filling!

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  3. Whoa that would be crazy awesome! I think it's worth it to apply and then if you get it, you could decide. At least then you'd know you tried!!

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  4. this looks like a great recipe! I agree- it's so fun to cook and start to create recipes on your own! What a fun opportunity!

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  5. You should totally do it :) You would be amazing! Once you get that apron on :P

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  6. Do it... you'll be happy you did. GREG

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  7. I'll never get over how cheap mussels are. And delicious! These ones look great.

    And you should totally do it :)

    Sues

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  8. These look incredible. Love the white wine and spice combo.

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