Dinner was going to be plain old paninis, albeit good paninis with roast beef and caramelized onion and blue cheese and arugula. But paninis none the less.
We had the necessary panini groceries in the cart by the time we got to the seafood area of Central Market and started sampling the mussels, and dinner plans changed quite suddenly. You see, the mussel samples we tasted in the grocery store were better than any seafood I have tasted, even in the nicest restaurants. Blasphemous. I mean, Central Market foodies were cooking the samples standing in teh middle of the store, at only Bunsen burners, and wearing silly hairnets at that. And the seafood sample was free. How could it be better than a plate of food I might pay $15, $20 or $30 for if I was out?!? But it was.
This led us to think... maybe, just maybe, we could make delicious mussels at home ourselves? It took a few more mussel samples to convince us. The first taste was a mussel in garlic and white wine, the second was a fried oyster, the third some crayfish etouffee, and then a second mussel steamed only in some water and its own essence. Each bite was fresh, simple, and delicious. We were sold. Six pounds of mussels in the cart, plus a bag of frozen french fries and a six pack of Belgian beer. It was our night to feast.
Trepidation returned briefly in the kitchen, first as we sorted through the mussels (wait, how open means food-borne illness?), then again right before steaming (how much liquid, how hot, how long?). But when we opened our pot of white onion, garlic, butter, white wine and mussels, there there were six pounds of beautiful, perfect, fresh and piping hot mussels, ready for eating. And again, they were better than any bucket of mussels I have eaten anywhere else.
With a big cone of french fries, a heaping side salad of veggies, a nice Belgian beer, and the good company of our friends Will and Carmen (Carmen actually took these pictures, thanks!), we were set for our feast. Additionally, Sam taught me that mussels are the most sustainable seafood. Delicious, nutritious, and ecological! Yeah.