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Marc Cassel of Park’s Mussels Steamed in Champagne With Fresh Ginger and Spinach

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photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

(Serves 4)
 
 2–3 pounds live black mussels*, scrubbed and de-bearded
 1–2  inches ginger root,  peeled and sliced
 6  garlic cloves, minced
 1 jalapeño, seeded and julienned
 1  pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into large pieces
 1/2 stick butter, unsalted and cubed
 2 cups Champagne (or any dry sparkling white wine)
 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or to taste)
 1 cello bag flat-leaf spinach, washed, stemmed, and torn
 Crushed red chili flakes, as desired

In a large, hot skillet quickly sauté ginger, jalapeño, mushrooms, and garlic. When the pan returns to high heat, add butter, salt, and mussels. Toss the mixture to distribute ingredients evenly. Working quickly, add Champagne and immediately cover the pan to trap as much steam as possible. When the mussels just begin to open, add spinach to wilt. Once all the mussels are well opened, remove from heat, toss pan again, and pour everything into a large heated bowl or serving platter. Sprinkle with chili flakes and serve immediately, preferably with lots of warm, crusty bread to dip into the hearty jus. Do not leave the mussels on the heat once they have opened, as they will quickly overcook, shrink, and become chewy.

* Preferably P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island) or the somewhat larger Mediterranean variety, but not the more readily available frozen New Zealand Green Lip mussels. A note on live mussels: the mussels’ shells should be tightly closed prior to adding them to the pan. Often you will encounter a few that have their shells agape. Tap the offending mussel briskly against a hard surface (such as the kitchen counter). If the mussel moves and closes back up, it’s alive and fine to use. If it does not move or close, discard it. Have your fishmonger do this for you at the market (don’t pay for dead mussels!), and repeat again at home just before use.

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