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A dish of steamed mussels, popular on restaurant menus, might seem daunting to prepare at home, but couldn’t be simpler. Buy fresh, live mussels in the shell from a reputable fishmonger or market. They are best kept in a colander on ice (set over a bowl for drainage) and consumed that day. Prep them by running cold water over the colander. While rinsing, sort through them, checking each one to make sure they are all closed. If you find an open mussel, gently tap it on the counter. If it closes, it’s still good; if not, toss it out.

Most mussels we buy here are farm-raised and less gritty than their wild counterparts. They’re generally debearded; beards are the small fibers that stick out of the shell’s opening and were used to attach the mussel to a post or a rock. Firmly tug at any visible beards to remove them. When the mussels have been thoroughly cleaned and checked, begin sauteing some red onion with a jalapeno and garlic, then simmer them with fresh tomatoes until they begin to break down. Add a light lager and let the mussels steam in the brew, stirring them gently occasionally so they cook evenly — this takes no longer than 10 minutes. When they’re all open (discard any that do not open), garnish with chopped fresh tomatoes, lime rind and juice, and plenty of cilantro for a zippy finish. You need a crusty loaf to mop up the juices and more of that lager, this time ice cold.

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KAROLINE BOEHM GOODNICK

Mussels with tomatoes and lager

Serves 4

2tablespoons olive oil
½red onion, thinly sliced
1jalapeno pepper, cut into thin rings
3cloves garlic, chopped
4plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1can (12 ounces) light lager beer
4pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded
Grated rind and juice of 2 limes
1cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the onion softens.

2. Add half the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 7 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes start to break down.

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3. Add the beer and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover the pot. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a large metal spoon, keeping the pot covered, until all the mussels are open. Discard any that do not open.

4. Stir the remaining tomatoes, lime rind and juice, and cilantro into the pot. Taste the broth for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Ladle the mussels and the broth into 4 shallow bowls. Karoline Boehm Goodnick


Karoline Boehm Goodnick can be reached at kboehmgoodnick@gmail.com.