Let the mushrooms sear and caramelize to really bring out the flavors. Every morning when I worked at a seafood restaurant, I had to poach pounds of shrimp and prawns, steam lobsters and crab, and cook and marinate mussels. Ever since I left the establishment, I haven’t prepared mussels; today was the day to change that. Cooking this meal brought me back to those days as a line cook except these mussels are cooked in a buttery miso broth rather than a garlic and lemon broth. Just to make this meal more special, I served the mussels with a side of mixed purple sweet potato fries and regular fries. Absolutely divine.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
These mussels can be served with warm crusty bread or with freshly fried pomme frites. I’m a huge fan of sweet potato fries so when I spotted purple sweet potatoes in the market, I decided to make this my side dish.
Purple sweet potato is also known as Japanese purple potato, Mokuau potato, and Okinawan potato. The exterior is a light tan color but the flesh is a bright purple color. Unfortunately, you won’t know how bright the color is until you peel the potato. Purple sweet potatoes are just as healthy as sweet potatoes and yams and packs over 3 times the amount of antioxidants that blueberries have.
I wanted to offer a mix of regular french fries and sweet potato fries so I prepared one potato of each. Since both potatoes have a high amount of starch in them, soaking them in water for at least one hour extracts some of the excess starch.
For the regular fries, soak in cold water for 1 hour, drain and pat dry just like the purple sweet potatoes. However, with the regular fries, you’re going to double fry them. Fry at 300 degrees F for 4 minutes. Remove from oil and lay on lined baking sheets. Let cool. Increase frying temperature to 385 degrees and drop the potatoes in. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from oil, drain on paper-towel-lined trays. Season with salt.
Why fry the regular fries twice and the purple sweet potato fries only once? The white-fleshed potato has higher water content, requiring you to fry once to cook the potato first. The second fry is to crisp up the fry and yields golden brown fries. I fried the purple sweet potato two times and they ended up like chips rather than fries because of their lower water content. Lesson learned!
When shopping for the mussels, I was unhappy with the fresh mussels that were offered. They were incredibly small which meant the actual meat would be tiny. Therefore, I went with the frozen mussels instead. You might cringe at frozen mussels or clams but these shellfish are immediately frozen when they are fresh, meaning they will still be of great quality when thawed and cooked.
I let the market inspire me in this dish as I had no idea what to prepare for the sides beforehand. To carry on the Asian theme, I went with watercress for the greens and oyster mushrooms. You can substitute watercress for spinach, bok choy, asparagus, or whatever greens are in season. I personally enjoyed the peppery quality of the watercress against the salty mussels and meaty mushrooms.
I love mushrooms, but oyster mushrooms rank in my favorite top 3. Oyster mushrooms are perfect for this seafood dish since they have a delicate oyster-like flavor. Because of their subtle flavor, the best way to serve them is to simply saute or roast them in butter or olive oil. Let the mushrooms sear and caramelize to really bring out the flavors.
Taste the sauce for the mussels before seasoning since the miso paste is quite salty. I substituted mirin for the sake, which is a sweeter rice wine and used white wine instead of Pernod. The verdict? These mussels in buttery miso broth were full of umami! The fresh herbs against the creamier sauce paired with the bitter watercress and delicate mushrooms, what a meal! Not to mention the crispy purple sweet potato fries and french fries. I even had crusty garlic bread on the side to soak up all that saucy goodness. A fantastic gourmet meal at home, ready in a cinch.
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