Shellfish on the stove or fire is simply satisfying

Appetites sated on sausages, burgers, even kale salad after a week of camping, we couldn’t bypass a meal of mussels. The bivalves were a featured dish at a Hood River brew pub, our pit stop on the journey home.

We’d gotten our fill of little lake fish, referenced in this blog’s previous post. But mild, delicate trout only piqued our appetites for shellfish in a briny broth, a favorite under just about any circumstance.

Mussels could indeed translate well to the campsite, provided they were kept very cold and cooked within a day or so of arrival. Beachfront campgrounds near towns with reputable fish markets would be the ideal venue for cooking up a pot of mussels, which takes mere minutes, preserving propone. They could even be placed in an improvised foil packet, vented at the top, over an open fire. One of my favorite Eugene restaurants cooks trays of mussels in its wood-fired oven.

Inexpensive, mussels do take a few minutes to clean and debeard, but that’s a minor chore with a scrub brush and water source, perhaps a colander, too. And pantry staples that travel well into the outdoors serve just fine to flavor a broth of white wine, which happens to be among my husband’s personal camping must-haves. This recipe is courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

Indoors or out, at home or in the field, mussels are a departure from the usual weekend lunch or weekday dinner. My favorite source in the Rogue Valley for fresh mussels is The Butcher Shop in Eagle Point.

Mussels can be harvested from Oregon beaches with a shellfish license, but care must be taken to ensure they are free of biotoxins. The state’s shellfish safety hotline is an indispensable resource.

Tribune News Service photo

Mussels With Tomato and White Wine

3 pounds mussels

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

1/2 cup dry white wine

Handful fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Crusty bread, for serving

Rinse and scrub the mussels under cold water. Remove beard from mussels, if necessary. Discard any mussels that won’t close if gently pressed.

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic and salt; cook until onion softens, for about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and oregano; cook until fragrant, for about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes; cook until they have slightly thickened, for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the wine.

Increase heat to high to bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover pot and cook, stirring every minute, until all mussels have opened, for 3 to 4 minutes. Discard any that don’t. Turn off heat; add the parsley.

Divide mussels and liquid between 2 large bowls. Serve with crusty bread.

Make 2 servings.

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