Lobster taste, mussels budget: Stout-Drunk Mussels

I am a St. Patrick's Day curmudgeon. I've never cared for Irish coffee, and green beer turns my stomach before it touches my lips. Those mobs of drunken revelers dripping with whiskey and green accessories? Just not my style.

But I do enjoy the occasional bowl of lamb stew and plate of Shepherd's pie. Soda bread, made correctly, can be tasty. Shamrock Shakes, the drink of the Devil, are a fine reason to risk being spotted by neighbors in the McDonald's drive-thru, and after hours I've been known to raise a mug of good stout beer.

Recent happy hours in St. Paul at Salut on Grand Avenue reminded me that, for reasons unknown to me, I've stopped eating mussels. I used to order them out or make them at home at least once a week. They are a cheap thrill (you know that saying, lobster taste on a mussels budget).

Salut serves their drunken mussels in an addictive ale broth. I brought that idea to Called to the Table this week and used Guinness as a base for a mussels recipe. Stout-Drunk Mussels are a perfect marriage of Irish flavor, Lenten diets, and quick preparation.

Stout-Drunk Mussels
Serves 4
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 strips bacon, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups Guinness Extra Stout (or your favorite stout-style beer)
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 stems fresh thyme
2 pounds mussels; cleaned, scrubbed and de-bearded
3 to 4 tablespoons cold butter
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Red chili pepper flakes
1 lemon cut into sections

Cut ¼ inch top off garlic head and tuck into foil-lined ramekin; drizzle with oil and replace head cap. Seal foil and bake garlic in 400 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes. Cool, then carefully squeeze or use small knife to remove cloves from skins.

In large sauté pan fry bacon over medium high heat until crispy, stirring frequently. Add shallot and cook until shallot just soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in mustard. Add stout, broth, thyme, and about half the roasted garlic (reserve remaining garlic to mash and spread over bread). Add mussels and bring liquid to simmer. Cover and cook until mussels open, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove any unopened mussels.
Remove sauté pan from heat. Divide mussels between 4 large serving bowls. Whisk cold butter into liquid. Pour liquid over mussels and garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes. Serve with lemon wedges and hot bread.


YUMMMMMM. also, i miss your soda bread.

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