Jen Causey
Active Time
25 MIN
Total Time
25 MIN
Yield
Serves : 6

Like many a northern Midwesterner, my need for seafood hits its fever pitch now, after the solstice, when temperatures dip below zero and a sloshed cup of coffee freezes on my boots like toffee-colored ice—when our world is covered in a quilt of snow and is as far removed from rushing water as it will ever be.

I like to cook in time with the seasons as much as anyone, but the frozen landscape makes the whole seasonal eating thing seem almost quaint—as if it’s an ethic for other, less desperate people to follow. In a way, the lack of fresh produce in winter feels creatively freeing. Winter cooking makes you dig for better search material; it’s a blank tape that I can shove into my kitchen VCR. I may cook in a snow-buried bunker stocked with nuts and potatoes and unusual ramen noodles, but I still have greedy, irrational cravings. If I squint just right into the sun glare hitting the snow drifts, I see a beach. When the arctic air cuts through my nose, swift and hygienic, I immediately think of mussels, soft herbs, and a cleansing lemon sauce. But the whipping Minnesota winds demand warming, comforting food, like avgolemono, the classic lemony Greek soup gently thickened with egg. Mussels cooked like avgolemono, is that a thing? Well, it is now—a dish that represents everything I want but can’t have.

So when my brother Marc proposes that we order some West Coast oysters for the Christmas feast, I swiftly add mussels to the online cart. The day they’re set to arrive, two feet of snow falls, making our driveway impassable to even the most hardcore of northern UPS trucks. After calling friends and pulling favors, I get our driver’s personal cell number and agree to meet him at the country store five miles down the road. In my kitchen, I dump the clattering mussels into the sink and pull on their wiry little beards; they free with satisfying pops. I sweat sliced shallots and a dangerous amount of garlic in butter, add the mussels, and then thicken the winey sauce with egg yolks and the juice of one too many lemons. Against the backdrop of the blizzard, the bright yellow marine sauce tastes thrillingly improper.

I’m so glad I saved the UPS driver’s number, because I’m definitely doing this again.

How to Make It

Step 1    

Heat a 12-inch, wide-bottomed, high-sided sauté pan over medium, and add 2 tablespoons butter. When it foams, add shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add garlic, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mussels, wine, and bay leaves, and cover tightly. Steam until mussels open halfway, about 4 minutes. Stir mussels, and add cream. Cover and steam until mussels have opened fully, about 1 minute. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)

Step 2    

Whisk together egg, egg yolks, and 6 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl. With pan over medium, add egg mixture to mussel pan liquid in a steady stream, stirring constantly to coat the mussels in a lightly thickened sauce. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and, if desired, 1 tablespoon lemon juice. (The acidity of the sauce should verge on bracing.) Add dill and parsley, and serve immediately right from the pan or over a pile of white rice to sop up the juices.

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