Did you know it's Independence Day in Belgium tomorrow? Neither did we. But as for an excuse to eat mussels (our love of them is well documented) and discover a new beer, it'll do. This recipe comes from chef Robert Wiedmaier of Brasserie Beck in DC. Chef Wiedmaier is half-Belgian and grew up in Germany and Belgium. He owns several restaurants in the DC area; his Brasserie Beck goes through 1,000 pounds of mussels a week.
Mussels are a great summer dish. You don't need to heat up your kitchen (or your oven), and they look perfect piled high in a bowl on a picnic table outside (just add a few baguettes for sopping up the broth). They can be elegant or messy, and they go great with beer.
Speaking of beer... The one in the picture is called Antigoon (named for a mythical giant from Antwerp!), and it is custom brewed in Belgium for Chef Wiedmaier. Good news for the rest of us, though: You can now buy it at Total Wine stores.
Provencale Mussels with Tomato, Garlic, Capers, and Basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound, cleaned, scrubbed, de-bearded PEI mussels (leave in shell)
1/2 cup diced, plum tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon Espellete pepper
2 tablespoons chopped, small leaf basil
1 whole garlic bulb
In a pot or heavy pan, sweat shallots and chopped garlic in olive oil. Add mussels, tomatoes, white wine, capers, pepper and basil. Cover with lid and cook until mussels open up.
Take one whole bulb of garlic, wrap in foil, and cook in oven at 300 degrees until soft. Remove from oven, cut in half and rub on a piece of grilled or toasted baguette.
Cooked mussels can be eaten right from the pot or pan or transferred to a wide rim soup bowl. Use baguette to soak up mussel broth.
Related: Techniques: How to Clean and De-beard Mussels
(Image and recipe courtesy of Robert Wiedmaier/Brasserie Beck)