Making PEI mussels like the mussel master

As a native Belgian and as the man who launched mussel aquaculture on Prince Edward Island (see post), Joel Van Den Bremt has eaten his share of mussels over the years. When I asked him how he preferred to cook them, he thought a bit and told me, “steamed, but with the vegetables soft enough to eat. I like the vegetables, too.” I agree with him. Some diners will pass the mussels to someone else at the table and just concentrate on the mussel-flavored broth. I prefer the three-bowl plan: one for the mussels, one of the spent shells, and a third for broth and vegetables. Although you can steam mussels in a dry pan, relying on their own juices, many people add raw vegetables...Read More

Fishermen feed the world (especially on PEI)

I met one of my heroes yesterday at the PEI International Shellfish Festival. I say “hero” even though I had never known his name until I met him, but Jozef Van Den Bremt changed the way a lot of us eat. A Belgian immigrant who wanted to find a way to contribute to his adopted country and his new home province of Prince Edward Island, he set out in the 1970s to figure out how to grow blue mussels. It's not that mussels were uncommon. They cling to every rock and pier in the North Atlantic–and every one of those wild mussels is full of grit in its flesh. To get sweet, juicy and grit-free mussels, you need to cultivate them on a substrate where...Read More

Steaming mussels in Belgian witbier

[caption id="attachment_490" align="alignleft" width="215" caption="Eric Cauwbarghs of Brasserie Kouterhof"][/caption] As Belgians will attest, beer is every bit as good as white wine for steaming mussels. Chef Eric Cauwbarghs of the Brasserie Kouterhof, which is attached to the 't Wit Gebrouw brewery in Hoegaarden, Belgium (about a half hour east of Brussels on a commuter train), showed me this straightforward but aromatic way to make a hearty winter dish of mussels and vegetables. The brewery's Hoegaarden witbier (white beer) is made with Curaçao orange peel and coriander, and the aromatics make a big difference in the flavor of the mussels. When I can't find Hoegaarden witbier at home (it's distributed selectively by Anheuser-Busch), I substitute another wheat beer and augment it with a little fresh orange...Read More

Is it the beer—or the pour?

[caption id="attachment_476" align="alignright" width="264" caption="The Bestowal"][/caption] I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I just learned that Avril Maxwell of New Zealand won the 2009 Stella Artois World Draught Master competition, which was held in New York on October 29. She beat representatives from 25 other countries in what might be the most harrowing bartenders' competition in the world. It's a promotion for Stella Artois that fixates on the brand's nine-step pouring ritual. If you want to practice at home, you'll need a pressurized keg with a proper tap. The steps go like this: 1. "The Purification." Clean and rinse the glass. 2. "The Sacrifice." Open and close the tap quickly to clear the line. 3. "Liquid Alchemy." Place the glass under (not against)...Read More