Pick up your tickets to the gun show!

Dill-Turmeric Mussels-1Mussels are the easiest and quickest meal to make at home. Not only is it cheap but you get to eat with your hands. One of my favorite sayings is ‘that everything tastes better when you eat with your hands’. Growing up, the only way my parents could get me to eat salad is by allowing me to eat it with my hands! Messy eating aside, let’s get back to the gun show: mussels!

My absolutely favorite way to make mussels is my spicy Thai version that I cooked up with my mom years ago when she was in town visiting. Although they are mouth-wateringly delicious, lately I’ve been finding myself looking for other ways of preparing mussels. Steaming them in a broth is the best way to get this meal done because it is so easy. Once you’ve settled on your “broth” base, it is only a matter of minutes before these little mollusks are ready to be scooped out. This is the latest version I came up with:

Dill-Turmeric Steamed Mussels

  • One tbsp oil, any regular veggie oil will do the job
  • One medium onion, halved then sliced
  • Two garlic cloves chopped
  • One bell pepper, julienne (aka. cut into thin strips)
  • One tomato, chopped
  • Two cups of dry Vermouth
  • One tbsp of turmeric
  • One tsp of cayenne pepper or to taste
  • One pound bag of mussels, scrubbed and rinsed
  • One bunch of fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • Two green onions, chopped

The first thing you want to do when it comes to mussels is to scrub and clean them under cold running water. Keep an eye out for the ones with broken shells and discard them. Drizzle the oil in a large pot and sauté the onions, garlic and bell peppers on medium-high heat until soft and slightly caramelized. Add the tomatoes and stir in the Vermouth, turmeric and cayenne. Bring the heat down to medium and let the “broth” simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the mussels, dill and green onion. Stir delicately to coat them with the broth. Cover and steam until all the mussels are cooked, stirring occasionally. The mussels are ready when they have opened – should take no more than 10 minutes or so. Serve into bowls. A classic side for this dish is fries, so don’t forget to bake up your favorite frozen kind to dip in this flavorful broth.

Finally, there is no need for forks here: the best way to eat mussels is to use the shells to nab out the meat. If you encounter mussels that haven’t opened, better to discard them. In no time flat you have a perfect “moules frites” (aka mussels and fries) for two!

If ever you have some broth left over, it makes an excellent base to poach fish or even chicken. Not only are you reusing leftovers that you probably would have thrown out, but you are creating a second meal that requires minimum prep. Simply add some rice and sauté extra veggies as a side!

Beer Can Chicken

Ancho-Mango Beer Can ChickenA priceless indulgence of the summer BBQ! Well, perhaps it’s neck and neck with ribs but a great indulgence nonetheless. Simple or elaborate, it is just delectable, moist, tender and its skin perfectly crispy! Sprinkle your chicken with salt, pepper and herbs, or baste with store bought BBQ sauce or marinate the chicken with your own creation. Whichever you decide, it will be fabulous!

The first time I made beer can chicken at home it was a delicate balancing act. The can was too full, the chicken too heavy and the grills too far apart – or not enough for such a narrow base. It is needless to say that the chicken fell over many times. So for beer can chicken you have two options: attempt the balancing act or for $5 buy the contraption seen in the picture. This stand is specifically made for beer-can chicken and is available at most grocery stores. Let me tell you, this contraption is definitely a worthwhile investment!

On this particular beer can chicken day I had an over-ripe mango on the counter and recently purchased whole dried ancho chilies I had not yet worked with. These two key ingredients mated to create this ancho-mango marinade.

Ancho-Mango Beer Can Chicken

  • One dried ancho chili
  • One tbsp dried oregano (remove the leaves from a few sprigs if using fresh)
  • One tsp cumin
  • One tsp cayenne
  • One half tbsp salt
  • One mango, peeled and cut into pieces
  • Two garlic cloves
  • One whole chicken, cleaned and patted dry
  • One large can of brown beer
  • One cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses

 

In a food processor combine the dried ancho chili, oregano, cumin, cayenne and salt until well blended. Add the mango and garlic, mix until smooth. Rub the marinade over the cleaned and dried chicken, making sure to get some of the marinade under the skin so that it can penetrate the meat. Latex gloves also come in handy here. Allow the chicken to rest and absorb the flavors at room temperature for about an hour.

In the meantime, use a can-opener to pop open the can of beer and pour out half its contents into either a glass for yourself or a saucepan if you decide to make a glaze. If you’re going for the glaze, then you should definitely go to your fridge and get a second beer for yourself to enjoy. In the saucepan, add the brown sugar and molasses. Bring up to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.

Beer-can chicken must be cooked with indirect heat, which essentially means that you want to leave the burner located under the chicken in the off position. Also make sure you have enough room to close the lid over the chicken. Turn only one side of the grill burners to medium heat and let the BBQ reach about 350°F. While the grill heats up, take the time to place the can of beer in the contraption’s holster. At this point you are ready to mount the chicken onto its beer-can throne. Once securely set, place the chicken onto the grill, above the grill that is in the off position, so it is in indirect heat. Close the lid and let it cook. Every fifteen minutes or so baste the chicken with the beer glaze and turn it to make sure it cooks evenly. Total cooking time should be between one hour and a half and two hours depending on the size of your chicken (internal temperature should be at 180°F).

The skin of this particular chicken was crispy and so sticky that the tongs stuck to the chicken. The meat was juicy and tangy from the mango and ancho pepper.

If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, the meat makes for awesome sandwiches!