The Last of the Mussels (but not Martha)

this basil garnish is brought to you by Rob.

At this point, I may actually have a touch of mussel fatigue. It's been a lovely trip of discovery, with tomato-touched and cream-sauced, and in the box's final hurrah, I like to think of this as buttery-winey-mustardy goodness.
What I learned about frozen seafood recipes in the process is actually extremely valuable - that these types of meals are easy enough for a weeknight, in that frozen seafood tends to cook or reheat itself rather quickly, and certainly they take far fewer time than I might have expected. Kind of strange - I suppose I always must have equated seafood with fancy, which I then word-associate with time-consuming, or special occasion. I think it's always nice to get that sort of reminder, the type of one that Rachael Ray is building an empire upon, in smacking oneself over the head that really good food doesn't have to be restricted, that it doesn't require eons or even extensive planning, that impressive dishes can and often are secretly, surprisingly, not all that difficult and can be simply made even by mere mortals such as myself.
So I suppose actually it's rather apt that I took this from a Martha Stewart cookbook. I'm torn on Martha, in a sense, in that she does seem so eerily perfect (and here we are going strictly in the domestic realm). There was a girl I went to high school with who was a junior Martha in spades: beautiful, brainy, athletic, and with a mother as a caterer was quite the cook herself. And Martha was an idol to her, an inspiration. I remember going to the end-of-the-year senior English class party and seeing her towering display of blueberry muffins, complete with basket, teatowel, ribbons and loose but artistically arranged berries, which at once both made me jealous and horrified me. That I thought she was also making an all-out run for my then-boyfriend, I am sure, had nothing to do with that. Hell hath no fury like a teenager scorned for someone else's cookies. She seemed so destined for Stepford wifedom, and myself not so much, that I thought surely I couldn't compete with that, and best not to try.
Certainly then it was with some trepidation that I turned to The Martha Stewart Cookbook to find new baking recipes for this coming weekend, but I figured it was time to bury the fear and the hatchet. If you want to impress, you go with the best, and grudgingly I admitted that Martha Stewart comes to mind as one of those experts on well, pretty much anything (Nigella, I think, will still be first in my heart). Oddly enough, I didn't find any breakfasty things I really wanted to try, but I came across numerous non-intimidating recipes for other items. And that was a true discovery. The mussels may be gone, but it looks like the Martha recipes are just beginning.

adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook

1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 bottle white wine (following Martha's recommendation, it was a Sauvignon Blanc)
20 frozen New Zealand mussels on the half shell
8 oz pasta of your choice (the one above is a spinach and chive linguine from TJ's)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp white wine
3-4 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c whole milk
salt and pepper to taste

Have the water for the pasta boiling by the time you start - if you use a thinner pasta or a fresh one, you should be able to it ready just in time to mix everything together.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. When the liquid is at a boil, add the mussels and cover. Start the pasta cooking now. Give both five minutes, at which point the mussels should be heated through and the pasta al dente.
In the meantime, make the sauce: in a bowl large enough to toss the pasta and sauce together, put in the mustard, wine, and lemon juice. Whisk together until the mustard loosens. In a measuring cup measure together the milk and oil and, whisking as you go, pour into the mustard mixture in a steady and slow stream. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste and whisk well.
When the five minutes are up, shut the mussels off and leave covered momentarily. Drain the pasta well and add it to the sauce, tossing gently to coat. Take the mussels and drain them over a large measuring cup or bowl so that the liquid is reserved. Add whatecer of the reserved cooking liquid to the hot pasta and sauce to your taste - the sauce will be thinned, but it should still coat the pasta well. Serve pasta and sauce into two bowls. Divide the mussels and onions between the two bowls and serve.
Yield: two generous servings mussels, with some leftover pasta and sauce.


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