Surprises from the Sea

Now that Dan and I are back on the coast, we’re excited to partake in the fresh seafood available in our area.  Back in Denver, all we had was Rocky Mountain oysters, which didn’t really taste like seafood for some reason.  I’m still investigating that.


Anyway, I discovered that there’s a specialty store called Shoreline Seafood only a short drive from where we live, so on a chilly Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to see what they had to offer.  After spending a couple of minutes just taking in the vast selection – everything from halibut to monkfish to Dungeness crab – I set to work picking out a few things for a risotto recipe that I had my eye on.  I ended up going home with two pounds of mussels, a dozen littleneck clams, a few cleaned squid, and a pound of ocean perch fish, all for only 20 bucks. 


Back at home, I began to prep the recipe right away, not wanting all of the fresh (or at least fully defrosted) seafood to languish in the fridge for too long.  This was the first time I had made risotto, and since I knew what I was getting into, I decided to take care of as much of the mise en place as possible in advance.  Unfortunately, I did not think ahead quite far enough.  I got the risotto cooking and started adding stock just in time to realize that I hadn’t de-bearded the mussels or checked to make sure that the clams were okay.


I gave the risotto a good stir and turned my attention to the shellfish.  This is where things started to get interesting.  The clams looked fine, so I set them aside, but when I looked at the mussels, I discovered that many of them were open already.  They’d only spent a few minutes outside of the nice cold fridge, so I knew that they weren’t too warm, but I’ve always heard that you should throw away any open mussels before you cook them.  (After they’re cooked, the rule reverses, and you’re supposed to throw away any closed ones).  I was just about to throw half of them out, convinced that we had gotten a bad batch.


Luckily, a quick internet consult saved me from having to do that.  I now know that there is an exception to that rule, since mussels apparently like to fall asleep and let their shells hang open. Yup, I had a bunch of passed-out, snoring mussels.  The Internet told me to tap them on the counter to wake them from their naps, and sure enough, it worked.  I spent a few minutes lightly throwing the mussels against the counter and staring them down as the shells drew back together (slowly- but I can understand that, since I’m not a morning person either).


I won’t lie, I felt a little guilty waking up those poor guys just to toss them in a pot and kill them.  Of course, it didn’t turn out to be quite that easy – but more on that in a later post.  At least the mussels died for a good cause.  Our dinner was delicious!