Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Recipe For . . .

(Photo: Dan Dry)

. . . Skillet-Seared Mussels with Bay, Roasted Garlic and Chilies at West Town Tavern.

When it comes to comfort fare, this Near West Side restaurant is exceptional. You won't find kitschy cuisine on the seasonal and ingredient-driven menu engineered by chef Susan Goss, who runs the well-respected spot with husband, Drew.

After almost 10 years (they celebrate in May), they've maintained a steady crowd beyond neighborhood folks coming for the popular Fried Chicken Night (Mondays), Wagyu Beef Burger Night (Tuesdays) and Taco Thursdays.

The Gosses celebrate the restaurant's first 10 years with Champagne & Fried Chicken every Monday through May 28. The heaping of yardbird is $16.95, but for an extra $10, you'll get a glass of the Grande Cuvée from Compte Audoin de Dampierre, which originates from a small house based in the village of Chenay.

Or if you really want to do it up, tickets are still available for the annual Girl Food Dinner on April 22. Joining Susan Goss in creating a signature dish paired with wine are Nicole Pederson (C-House), Priscila Satkoff (¡Salpicón! Restaurant), Jackie Shen (Argent) and Jesse Oloroso (Black Dog Gelato).

While you're there, pick up a copy of the couple's cookbook, West Town Tavern: Contemporary Comfort Food, which contains more than 100 original recipes.

Here's one to get you started: Skillet-Seared Mussels with Bay, Roasted Garlic and Chilies:


Fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
Olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Bay leaves
Garlic, roasted
Fresh hot red chilies such as Fresno or jalapeño, halved lengthwise
Lemon, unpeeled
Sauvignon Blanc


In a large bowl, toss mussels with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat a 14-inch heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Carefully add mussels, being sure to scrape all the olive oil out of the bowl into the pan. The mussels should sizzle and steam immediately. Add bay leaves, garlic, chilies and lemon; stir well.

Clamp a lid over mussels and steam them, shaking pan occasionally for five minutes to seven minutes. Take a peek to see if all the mussel shells have opened. When all the mussels are open, divide them among four large soup plates or shallow bowls. Discard any unopened mussels. Add wine to pan and bring it to a boil. Let it boil and reduce by half. Whisk in butter to form a creamy emulsion with wine.

Taste the sauce for seasoning and remove from heat. Divide sauce and garnishes among the bowls and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Recipe notes:

To roast garlic, separate cloves from one head and peel them. Place garlic cloves in a small, shallow pan. Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil over cloves and cover pan with foil. Roast at 350°F for 30 minutes to 40 minutes until soft and sweet. Save the garlic-infused oil to use in vinaigrette, on vegetables or to marinate meats and fish.

Mussels should be tightly closed most of the time. They are "breathers" and will open their shells a crack to take in air. Mussels that are alive will close immediately if tapped. Do not buy any mussels that are wide open or have a strong aroma. West Coast mussels tend to have a darker, richer flavor than East Coast mussels, but all mussels should have a sweet, fresh flavor. Do not eat any mussels that do not open fully.

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