It's getting warm, but I certainly appreciate a dip in temperature along with damp air once in a while, just like today. That's when I get a break from allergy attacks that just seem to have gotten worse in the last couple of years. Besides, although my inclination for soups and stews knows no season, I like it more when it's a bit chilly outside.
Fresh mussels are great anytime, but especially on a chilly spring day when I crave that warm broth, both light and deep in one sip. Cleaning mussels feels like more effort than it really is, which is probably why I don't pick it up more often. But once I start, I am always reminded that it's not a big deal. I'll leave this part up to your googling skills, as there are more than enough pages that explain the steps of cleaning mussels (with pictures too!). I add a sprinkle of flour to help mussels disgorge sand, but that seems to be more of a choice.
After the 'hassle' of cleaning mussels, steaming them can be very quick. I gather a few ingredients in a pot, then mussels do the hard work of bringing out its light, clean, oceany flavor. Take time and have fun picking out plump mussels. I could almost drink up the remaining spicy broth in one gulp. But let me play with a mix of flours this time to make my own fresh buckwheat noodles that's worthy of the mussel broth. A simple combination of all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour and potato starch keeps the noodle strands appropriately bouncy and chewy for this light, refreshing broth with a kick to it.
Yields: 2 Main Servings (could easily feed 3, possibly 4 in modest portions)
2 lbs. Fresh mussels, beards removed and washed thoroughly
2~3 C Water
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 C Daikon radish, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1 Jalapeno, thinly sliced with seeds
(or a combination with 1/2 of a red Holland pepper for color)
1/2 t Salt
Buckwheat Noodle Soup
1 stock Scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
A pinch of toasted sesame seeds for garnish
1/2 C All-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/4 C Potato starch
1/4 C Buckwheat flour
1/4 t Salt
1/3 C Water
1/2 t Toasted sesame oil (or 1 t of neutral-tasting oil)
1. If you are planning for the buckwheat noodle soup, make the dough by mixing all-purpose flour, potato starch, buckwheat flour, and salt with your hand. Add water and bring together the ingredients to a lump. Knead to form a smooth ball. After kneading for about 5 minutes, if it's still too dry, wet your palm and go back to kneading. When you have a fairly smooth dough, drizzle sesame oil (or other neutral tasting oil if you don't want a hint of sesame oil from your noodle dough) and knead until oil is completely absorbed into the dough. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour. You can do this a day ahead, in which case the dough wrapped in plastic should be refrigerated.
2. Place garlic, daikon radish, jalapeno pepper, salt and water (2 cups for just steaming mussels, 3 cups if using the broth for noodle soup) in a pot big enough to snuggly hold 2 pounds of mussels. Eliminate jalapeno pepper if you don't want the broth to be spicy. Bring up to a boil over high heat.
3. Add fresh mussels and cover the pot. Boil for 5 minutes then stir to mix mussels for even cooking. Close the lid and cook until all the mussels are open, about 5 ~ 10 minutes. Discard mussels that are still closed. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Ladle out mussels and radish slices along with broth for serving. Reserve about 2 cups of broth for noodle soup.
4. For the buckwheat noodle soup, roll out the dough to a rectangular sheet with 1/4" thickness on a clean surface dusted with flour. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it to about 1/4" strands.
5. Bring the broth up to a boil again. Shake off extra flour and separate noodle strands as you add them gently into the pot. Stir to separate noodle strands. Boil until noodle strands are springy and cooked, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Ladle the noodle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with scallion and sesame seeds.