I used to watch quite a bit of PBS. First Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, then the cooking series from the 80s like the Frugal Gourmet and Jacques Pepin, and then those wonderful David Suchet Poirot episodes and other assorted Masterpiece Theater shows. I adored Diana Rigg's Masterpiece Theater introductions almost as much as my parents enjoyed Cookie Monster's (or rather Alistair Cookie's) Monsterpiece Theater skits.
But then for a good ten years I all but abandoned the network. I suppose this coincided with the rise of bad reality TV, to which I am tragically addicted. But recently, inspired by Terry over at Blue Kitchen's enthusiasm for the current crop of cooking shows on PBS, I've become a bit of a public broadcasting devotee.
First I began to DVR Lidia Bastianich's show and now as a result know more about the starch content of carnaroli rice (better than arborio apparently) than I ever thought I'd care to. The latest Ken Burns mini-series appeared (although I've been to Yosemite countless times the national parks special has ignited in me a great desire to go back again), and Eric Ripert's show Avec Eric has got me all concerned about the seasonal nuances of my olive oil.
But perhaps my favorite PBS discovery is Ruth Reichl's new show Gourmet Adventures With Ruth. In each episode she visits some fabulously informative food person with a famous, but not too famous food-oriented friend of hers. The amount of entirely new information (to me at least) that is conveyed in these shows is unbelievable, and quite heartening really. There's so much to learn!
On her seafood show, set in Seattle with Tom Skerritt and an unbelievably knowledgeable fisherman whose name currently escapes me, she and her gang demonstrated a mussel cooking method that intrigued me...just throw them in a dry hot pan and wait for them to pop open!
Faced with one of those delicious evenings where I had no plans to go out, the apartment to myself, no errands or household tasks planned and sufficient energy to cook a relatively involved meal for myself, I opted to give the mussels a try.
After scrubbing a pound and a half of Prince Edward Island mussels, I threw them in a screaming hot cast iron skillet.
As each mussel popped open, I removed it to a large bowl with a pair of tongs.
There were a few holdouts...
...but eventually, after much sizzling, they relented.
I took Alex Guarnaschelli's very good advice to throw in a little crunch in the form of toasted bread crumbs (I have been loving panko lately...irrationally I find making breadcrumbs to be totally onerous) and some freshness in the form of parsley and mint.
By the way, I would never have considered mint as a good pairing with mussels but the idea is genius.
I've eaten a lot of mussels in my day, but these were special. Delicate but just a tad smoky from all of the scorching. And tender beyond belief...perhaps because I plucked eat one out just as it was done so there was no overcooking?
I was in an oddly European mood so I followed my wine, mussels and buttered baguette with a bit of salad and Tomme de Savoie. And then blew the whole thing with a Whippet at the end...the Canadian version of a Mallomar in case you are not familiar, as I was not until I saw them on the shelf at Citarella. Why Canadian cookies are being sold in New York I know not, but regardless they are delightful, both alone and as the cap to a lengthy meal.