I had a fantastic first day of work. I got up with Kramer, made some good coffee and had a big bowl of yogurt, honey, and walnuts, then headed into the office. The best part about my new job is that the commute is so much better than what I’ve been doing for the past few years, which is schlepping into the heart of midtown Manhattan. I had to transfer trains, walk endless flights of stairs, and honestly, it starts to wear on you after a while! Now, I only have to take one train from Brooklyn into Union Square, then walk a quick five blocks. Obviously it won’t be quite as lovely when the weather is bad, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to get out of the subway much faster than I’m used to. I also love Union Square. There’s tons of great food, a farmer’s market that I know I will be visiting often, and it’s nice to have a little “me” time while I walk and listen to music instead of pushing past people trying to get to the uptown F train. I’m excited to check out new restaurants and bars, and maybe even have lunch with Kramer, as his office is only seven blocks away.
After work today, however, I was apparently in the mood to punish myself, so I took an outdoor bootcamp class at McCarren Park. It was painful! We started off jogging a few blocks to the park, which already felt like it should have been enough of a workout for me, as I am absolutely not a runner. I am slow and uncoordinated, so of course I was the last one in the group to get there. Whatever! I’m trying, alright? They always say that it’s all about putting in the initial effort. Well, I was breathing hard and was immediately ordered to do jump squats, burpees, sprints, push-ups, about a million sit ups, more sprints, and more burpees, all in 40 degree weather for which I was completely underdressed in knee-length workout pants, a t-shirt, and a thin sweater. Even the instructor kept looking at me like she felt bad…not that I was given any opportunity to give up or rest. I got home and took a piping hot shower, which was maybe the best shower I’ve ever taken in my life, then ate a giant bowl of chicken soup that I made on Monday with plenty of Sriracha. It was heavenly.
I would have been just as happy with a big bowl of these mussels, though. Kramer and I had a pasta in mushroom broth at Antica Pesa a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. While I didn’t have the time to make fresh pasta, I did have some lovely mussels and figured that I could make some French fries pretty easily, so I got to work. The fries were easy to make because I fried them once, then baked them, so I didn’t have to worry about standing over a hot pot of oil while trying to cook the rest of my dinner. Soaking dried mushrooms in water makes for a delicious broth, to which I added some leeks, tomatoes, and garlic, then steamed the mussels in it all. Kramer and I devoured all of the mussels and the broth; all of the flavors and textures are perfect for a cold evening, but since it’s all made on the stove top, it’s great for a spring dinner, too. You’ll feel like you’re sitting in a fancy French bistro as you eat, hopefully with a cold Kronenberg or a chilled glass of dry white wine.
My day-off breakfast of kimchi and eggs, my new walk to work through Union Square, a cloudy view of Manhattan from Brooklyn, and some custom made Crepes of Wrath boxes.
- 1 pound potatoes, cut into matchsticks
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- canola or vegetable oil, enough to fill a pot up to 3 inches
- sea salt, for sprinkling
- 1 cup dried mushrooms, plus enough water to cover them
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 8 large cherry tomatoes (or more, if you prefer, diced)
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup beer or white wine
- 1 pound mussels, cleaned
- I recommend starting the fries first, as they are fried then baked. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet with a cooling rack fitted inside. Heat your oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it reaches about 375 degrees F. Cut your potatoes into matchsticks, adding them to a bowl of cold, salted water as you cut so that they don’t brown, soak for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water until the water runs clear. Dry very, very well – if you add wet potatoes to hot oil, there is a good chance the oil will catch on fire or you will burn yourself. I like to press paper towels into the cut and rinsed potatoes and squeeze the water out until my arms hurt. It’s kind of a process, but totally worth it.
- Place your matchstick potatoes in a mesh sieve, and sprinkle your cornstarch over them, tossing until they are just barely coated. Add the fries to the oil in batches, cooking for 3 minutes or so, until blistered and lightly golden. Place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain, then place the fries on a baking sheet in even rows. When you are ready to cook the mussels, place the fries in the oven on the sheet for 15 minutes, until crispy and golden. You can fry the French fries up to an hour prior to baking them, so I like this method if you are cooking for a crowd and don’t want to be stuck over a hot pot of oil. When the fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with sea salt immediately and serve piping hot with ketchup, although be sure to dunk them in the mussel broth, too – it’s fantastic.
- Place your dried mushrooms in a medium sized bowl and cover them with enough boiling hot water to cover them entirely. Cover the bowl, then allow the mushrooms to soak for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the broth, but be sure to reserve that broth!
- During this time, you can clean your mussels. Soak them in cold water until you are ready to use them, then scrub well and pick out the “beard” that runs along the “mouth” of the mussels with your fingers, discarding any mussels with broken or opened shells. Place back in fresh, cold water to soak out any remaining bits of grit until you are ready to use them.
- Add your mushrooms to a hot, heavy bottomed pot and cook for 8 minutes or so over medium-high heat to remove the excess water. Add in your butter and sauté for 5, then add in the leeks and chopped tomatoes. Cook for another 8 minutes, then add in your whole, peeled garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. Add in 1½ cups of reserved mushroom broth, your beer or white wine (I prefer beer), and your mussels. Cover and steam over medium heat for 8 minutes or so, until the mussels have opened up and are tender. Taste and adjust your seasonings as needed. Serve alongside your French fries, and if you’re going all out, some crusty bread.