Mussels Cooked with Beer

Mussels are very easy to cook. Most everyone knows that. You wash the mussels, scrub them well, pop them in a pan, add a little white wine or sherry, and cook until they open. I've cooked mussels in almost every sauce combination imaginable: from a soy sauce blend to mustard based, and everything in-between. Then I came across beer as a steaming agent. And I've discovered that when I use beer, the heartier the beverage, the better the result. Forget using a nondescript mass produced American beer. They generally suck, especially those "light beer" that are flavorless. Go for a dark beer or hearty type ale. Thank goodness we have in a this country a resurgence of regional and local breweries that have put our beer back on the map. If it wasn't for that, American beer wouldn't be worth drinking.

For this recipe I would recommend a good IPA, brown ale, or even better, stout. I cooked the mussels using an Otter Creek Copper Ale. This gem hails from Vermont and is a good example of native brewing. I also serve the dish with hot, crusty grilled bread.

MUSSELS COOKED WITH BEER

2 1/2 pounds mussels
4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 bay leaves
2 cups beer or ale
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

1. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft and transparent (about 3 minutes, but don't let garlic get brown).
3. Add bay leaves and beer or ale. Bring liquid to a boil, add mussels, cover, and steam until the shells open (5-8 minutes). Discard any shells that do not open.
4. Using a slotted spoon, remove mussels to a large bowl or platter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup parsley over mussels.
5. Remove bay leaves from liquid in pot. Add basil and return liquid to a low heat. Stir in cream and remaining parsley. Cook until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Stir in additional 2 tablespoons of butter. Pour sauce over mussels and serve with hot bread.
   Yield: 4 servings.