I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Show me your mussels

I know it doesn't make for interesting blog reading to post about the same things again and again, but you'll have to indulge me just this once. Some time ago, I posted about a paella dish made by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey?

At the time, I had a package of mussels in my freezer that had been given to me by my food broker and it was the perfect opportunity to use them but I didn't have a chance to take a photo of my creation. It was the first time, to my knowledge, that I had eaten mussels and I knew right then and there that it definitely would not be the last. I had eaten paella before, sans mussels, but the added dimension of flavor that these little jewels provide is unbelievable!

Unfortunately, being landlocked here in the Culinary Wasteland, mussels are not commonly found in grocery stores or restaurants. I wouldn't doubt that if I walked into what they call a grocery store around here and asked for mussels, the seafood manager would pull up his shirt sleeves and flex his biceps! Thank goodness for the luxury of ordering food by the semi-truck loads for the catering kitchen! I tacked a 10 lb. box of mussels onto one of my orders and now I have the luxury of having them whenever I want. And what with this post and the paella, you'd think I'd have my fill by now but I'm already thinking of the next recipe that I want to try!

Since Meeta lives in Germany, her recipe measurements were in grams so I had to revise it just a bit in order to convert it and I substituted white meat chicken in place of her dark meat because I always have boneless, skinless chicken on hand. Dark meat is usually more moist and tender, so go ahead and use it if you have it. Also, I used halibut for this fish - again because I have a freezer full of it from one of Captain Sturm's fishing expeditions.

Seafood Paella

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 pound chicken (boneless thighs or breasts) -- cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound mussels
1/2 pound large shrimp -- peeled & deveined
1 pound fish fillet -- cut into bite-sized pieces
2 bell pepper (yellow & red) -- cut into 1" cubes
1 onion -- finely chopped
2 cloves garlic -- finely chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper -- to taste
1 cup rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron
6 ounces frozen peas
1/2 lemon -- juiced
4 cups chicken stock

Heat oil in large dutch oven and brown chicken. Remove from pan and set aside. Add more oil if needed and saute fish and shrimp, separately, for about 2 - 3 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside with chicken. Add mussels and let cook until they open up. Discard any that do not open.

Preheat oven to 350.

Add more oil if needed to pan, and saute peppers and onions. Add the garlic and rice. Stir well to coat the rice with the oil. Dissolve the saffron in the chicken stock. Add the stock, about 1 cup at a time and allow to simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Repeat this process until all but the last 1/2 cup of the liquid remains. Add this to the rice along with the peas. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, fish, shrimp, and mussels to the pot. Mix well.

Cover and place in the preheated oven. Let cook for about 35 minutes - do not open the lid as the paella needs to gently combine all the flavors and aromas together.

Remove from the oven and leave covered about 10 minutes before opening. Salt and pepper again to taste and pour lemon juice over the top.

Inspired by Meeta from What's For Lunch Honey?
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