Searious Mussels

So Joel and I have been on a kick watching Kitchen Nightmares lately. It’s like the Hoarders of food shows, and I love it. Even if I do feel just the slightest bit shamed because the food Gordon Ramsay turns his nose at I’m usually like “DAMN THAT IS COVERED IN CHEESE AND IT LOOKS GOOD.” I have the most sophisticated pallet. Clearly.

But on one of the episodes, Ramsay was trying to choke down some mussels marinara*, and I was instantly hit with a craving for mussels. I’ve never made mussels on my own before, and I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve eaten them. But the craving was sudden, ridiculous, and insatiable. One of those “if we don’t make these tomorrow I will cry” kind of cravings – seriously, Joel came home on Sunday night after an unsuccessful mission to find fresh mussels and I did cry**.

A few years ago when Joel stayed with me in the States, we took a trip to Montauk, NY. It was November, so there were exactly 18 people in the Hamptons, and even fewer in Montauk. We stayed in a shifty motel close to the beach, and googled restaurants until we found one that was locally famous and had the most insane name ever – Shagwong Tavern. I would have eaten there based on the name alone, but the reviews boasted the best seafood on the island, so onward we went.

Being near the Hamptons, I was expecting something a little more upscale. What we arrived at was a dank, dark, tavern that had been ridden hard and put away wet. One of those old restaurants that’s been around so long and will never not smell like cigarettes and bad decisions. We were welcomed to queaky plastic seats with American Indian fabric covered booths, crappy tables, and decor that hadn’t been updated since the mid 80’s. The bar was across from the dining room, where the clientele looked like they hadn’t been updated since the mid-80’s either – a mullet or two, curls crunched up with gel, guys wearing flannels with the sleeves cut off making out with girls in high waisted tight jeans, getting drunk and rowdy and playing pool, and everyone drinking Budweiser from the bottle. Needless to say I was no longer worried about wearing a zip up hoodie to dinner.

We ordered a bottle of wine, some entrees, and the steamed mussels to start. I wasn’t sure how to eat them, but I wanted to impress Joel so I just went with it. And fuck if they weren’t amazing. We ate until we were blind and made a lot of passing judgements at people. I think there was almost a bar fight at one point. And I remember being scared to use the bathroom. It’s one of our fondest date memories.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 10.05.30 PM
all the high class restaurants have Donate Blood cards at the table. Also random baby pumpkin.

Since Monday was a public holiday (woo!), we woke up and set out on a quest for fresh mussels. And later that night, we were eating a pan full of deliciousness. Joel came up with a garlic and white wine sauce that was basically magic, we had fresh sour dough, and it was damn good. We even cleared off the table to eat like real grown ups.



About five minutes after we sat down…

Who knew mussels were so easy to make? All in all it was about 30 minutes of prep and cook. Normally, here is where I’d post the recipe, but Joel was at the helm and I was catching up on some work, so I have no idea what happened. Except vegetable stock was included at some point. And garlic. Oh, and white wine. And it took like 14 minutes to steam the mussels.

So there you go, world’s easiest recipe. Get some mussels and some wine and go to town!


*Until I moved here, I always thought marinara sauce was a plain tomato sauce. Nuuuupe. Continuing the seafood adventures kick, Joel bought a bag of fresh seafood mix and made a seafood marinara on Monday, complete with this badass tomato sauce that I once again didn’t pay attention to as he was making it, because I was once again catching up on work. But it was one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. I believe stock was once again involved. And parsley. And onions. And garlic.

So there you go, another awesome recipe to try this week.

**But really, what hasn’t made me cry this week? I need a vacation.

***No shame in my pun game.

A tale of two porks

The pork tenderloin variety, not of the paid adult programming variety.

When it comes to cooking, I have a tendency to run before I can crawl, which is probably a response to years and years of being too scared to make anything more challenging than a grilled cheese. But, I’ve been pushing myself in the kitchen this year, and more often than not, the results are delicious, and my kitchen hasn’t been lit on fire. Even if I did leave the oven on all night that one time*.

So one day at work, I found a recipe for Crispy Roast Pork amidst some content work for one of our websites. And I remembered how delicious pork crackling was that time Joel’s dad made it.

Salt roasted pork is basically a heart attack. The fatty top slab of the pork is rubbed with coarse salt, and then blasted with high heat to crisp the fatty skin, and then roasted for about an hour to make the bottom juicy while the top gets crispier. The desired effect is a top fatty crust that sounds like it “crackles” and shatters as you bite into it. Hence, pork “crackle.” It’s typically served with a pork belly, but I can’t handle the squishy texture of the belly meat. But, the salty crackle combined with juicy pork meat is to die for. What I researched told me that a pork shoulder is better to use if you can’t use belly, but I’ve never cooked a pork shoulder without a slow-cooker. But I’ve made roast tenderloin before and it was amazing. So I went with what I knew.

I rushed to Google, who confirmed kinda weakly that tenderloin skin can crisp up with the best of them, if that’s all you’ve got. And all it took to make the dish was salt, a roasting pan, and an oven capable of reaching 240*C.


So, riding this wave of kitchen successes, I Googled some more until I found a credible recipe that didn’t involve bean curd marinade, and I set off to the butcher. One of the great things about living here is that I’m never too far away from an independent butcher or an self-stocked local farmer fruit stand. In face, I pass by both when I’m going by either the grocery store near work, or the grocery store near home. The reason I don’t stop there is pure laziness. Neither place takes debit cards, and most days I’ll be damned if I have to make one more stop than I have to, so I’ll go where I can get everything all at once. It’s a shitty habit, I know, especially considering the food quality is so much better at the independent stands.

But, I digress.

The butcher, near my office is an older guy named Bill, dressed in a white chef’s shirt and who talks like butchers from the b&w era. He was incredibly friendly and informative, and told me to come back after work because he was waiting for a “pork delivery.” When I came back, he had cut and scored a piece of tenderloin specifically for my needs. He even gave me tips on how to cook it, and threw in some scrap pieces on the house. As I was paying for it, he insisted I come back on Monday to tell him how it went. I was a little overwhelmed by his friendliness, and for a moment he made me think I was living down south in the mountains again, where friendliness with strangers is a daily occurrence. But I walked away thinking, if that’s how nice grocery shopping can be, then I’ll definitely be coming back. Maybe he can make me some American-style cuts of bacon…

Oh my god. I’m going back tomorrow.


So I bring the pork home, and it’s beautiful. And there’s no weird pork smell that I’ve noticed with grocery store pork. I rubbed it dry, massaged it with a bit of olive oil and salt, sang to it, had a photo shoot with it, rubbed it some more, and then put it to bed in the fridge so the fat rind could soak up all the salt.

hello, lovely!
hello, lovely!
I wore my good sweats for this shoot. #fridaynight
I wore my good sweats for this shoot. #fridaynight

The next night, I took it out of the fridge and rubbed it again, coaxed it again, and salted it again. Joel cut up onions and apples, and we layered them in the bottom of the pan before putting the roasting rack with ol’Salty on top.

Let's talk about salt, baby
Let’s talk about salt, baby

Then we shoved the roasting pan in the oven–literally, it almost didn’t fit and I would have cried–and proceeded to wait over an hour while it roasted.


Here’s where we didn’t plan. We were slugging about all day, and we had a big breakfast so we weren’t  particularly hungry for lunch, and therefore, lunch was skipped. And we weren’t hungry until the roast had 30 mins to go. And without knowing, we got hangry. And there were no snacks, at all. Except for a bag of candy that Joel found, which we inhaled. And then we inhaled the rest of the peanut better cookie bits. And then there was only 12 minutes left on the roast, and I wasn’t nearly as hungry. And I was all daaaaamn.


By the time we sat down to eat, I wasn’t hungry. I had filled up on last minute sugar impulse. I wasted $35 of pork for Starburst Jellies and week old peanut butter cookies.

et voila. Maybe next time I'll be hungry :(
et voila. Maybe next time I’ll be hungry 😦

That kinda coloured the rest of the meal. The pork was tender and tasted like a tenderloin, but the crackle was too much on chewy and too short on crackle. But, I blame myself. It probably would have been mind blowing if I had had an appetite.

you vile temptresses. Also, I ate 97% of these cookies over the week because Joel doesn't like peanut butter desserts. Sucks to be him!
you vile temptresses. Also, I ate 97% of these cookies over the week because Joel doesn’t like peanut butter desserts. Sucks to be him!

I felt really guilty and shitty about it, like I ruined the meal. Because I did. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve done it. One day. One day I’ll learn the valuable lesson of “no sweets before dinner.”

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The next day, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the pork. Mom suggested simmering it in BBQ sauce and shredding it, and I was all “why didn’t I think of that!” I simmered it in a combo of BBQ suave and yellow mustard until the meat became tender. Because it was tenderloin, it didn’t shred very well, but I was able to cut it up pretty small, and I served it over mashed potatoes, and topped it all with roasted corn and tomato relish.

That corn reminds me of loose teeth. Or lotus pod skin. I can't stop staring at it. But it was good!
That corn reminds me of loose teeth. Or lotus pod skin. I can’t stop staring at it. But it was good!

It was BBQ mash just slopped into a bowl, it looked like hot sick, and honestly, it was so much better than the meal I was excited for a whole week to make. And it made Patton Oswalt proud. Go figure.

My take aways from my weekend in pork?

  • Always eat lunch or snack through out the day when you know dinner will take 1.5 hours to cook.
  • Don’t turn Hoover on sugar and chemicals when you’ve spent heaps on dinner.
  • Pork tastes better with a marinade. Or when roasted over a bed of onion, apple, and some chicken broth.
  • Aluminium foil lining the roasting tray didn’t make clean up a snap.
  • Butcher meat is the best meat.

Onward to the next meat adventure!

*jokes. One of us knocked the dial by accident and noticed a few minutes later. The oven wasn’t even warm.

On the Subject of Meatloaf

Noooo, meatloaf. Not Meat Loaf.

The first meal I remember my mom teaching me how to cook is meatloaf. Somewhere in my storage boxes at home, I still have her recipe that she wrote out for me, on her stationary whose border had a mother rabbit in a dress, surrounded by [presumably] her baby rabbits in little clothing, saying “Motherhood is a hare raising experience.” I liked making meatloaf because it was my job to mash all the veggies and whatnot into the meat. It was gross. And awesome.

I remember eating meatloaf a lot as a kid, because my parents are mid-western and meatloaf is a mid-west staple. But I can’t remember the last time she made it. And as Joel and I were flipping through a cookbook my mom gave us, his eyes landed on a meatloaf recipe and he lit up. As I was about to find out, Joel is a meatloaf fiend. And since we had hamburger in the freezer, vegetables in the fridge, and up til then, no clue what to do for dinner, we decided on meatloaf.

Prepping it was gross and awesome like it when I was a kid–just mushing together a pile of cold hamburger and egg and cut vegetables, and topping it with tomato sauce. It looked like a pile of wet slop. But after two hours of baking, it was delicious.


I didn’t take more photos, because I didn’t think this meal was going to be a success. But, shit. Meatloaf might become a regular thing now. I paired it with golden potatoes that I mashed with thickened cream and real butter. And it was so good.

What I didn’t realize until I put all the ingredients together is that 2 lbs of meatloaf can feed like, 20 people. Whoops. But now I understand why it’s a family staple. It’s easy to prepare, uses up your old veggies (or frozen veggies, even easier), is child friendly, doesn’t need constant tending, and will feed you for days. Like tonight, when we had fried meat loaf sandwiches.


Meatloaf for days. Or as Joel put it, “Alright, second hand meat!”

Yeah… That quote is the only reason I wanted to post about this.


Hattie’s Meatloaf
From Talk About Good
by Hattie Mae Perry

2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, well beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper, more if desired
2 slices bacon (optional, I went without, because bacon is different here)
1 can tomato sauce
*I added carrot, celery, and corn, because vegetables are yum. I also added a healthy dose of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning because yes. It goes on everything.

Mix meat, egg, onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When mixed, form into a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan.

Place the two slices of bacon over the meat loaf and cover with tomato sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or 170*C for 2 hours.
Approximately 8-10,000 servings.