I am...a New Yorker

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Thursday, December 26, 2002
Pulling Mussels from a Shell

How to just fucking enjoy stuff. Sort of.

Stuffed mussels on the half shell, cioppino, steamed mussels with roasted (charred, really) peppers and onions on Christmas Eve with K.

The opposite of my normal instinct. It's the Costanza principle.

That old Diana Ross song, "I Want Mussels [SIC]."

The marathon of A Christmas Story, but seeing very little of the interviews. I wanted to see the kid who plays Scott Farkus. Yellow eyes!

I am...giving K credit for surviving my mussel fest the other night. I invited him over on Tuesday night because I was house/cat-sitting again. Also, I still had a pound of mussels and no idea what to do with them.

And then there is the fact of enjoying his company so very much, which is rather a rare treat for me.

I had to buy two pounds of mussels on Saturday, because Gristede's didn't carry them at all and the seafood counter at Food Emporium only had them pre-bagged. A spare pound of yummy shellfish is a golden problem to have, let me tell you.

Luckily, K was free on Tuesday and I was off work at 3. There's a bus right from my job to R's apartment, so I was there by 3:45, bumping into R. at the end of his block, each of us laden with bags for our overnight excursions.

I'm actually glad he decided to spend Christmas with his family. I went to his place to bake on Monday night while he saw The Two Towers, so I could send him off to his mother's with a bunch of cookies and fudge. R and I hugged, kissed and wished each other Merry Christmas, before walking in opposite directions.

I cleaned and steamed the mussels in beer, rosemary, garlic and anise seed. I prepared the breadcrumb stuffing so the flavors would have a few hours to meld. Finally, I removed 10 of the mussels from their shells, saving the flesh and cleaning one side of the shell for each one, discarding the other half.

I was particularly thankful for having left work at 3, as I did all of that and still arrived at Gristedes by 4:15, before many people were off work and it got just insanely crowded. It was a last minute house-sitting gig, or I never would have shopped on Christmas Eve.

At any rate, I had the mussels and most of the other supplies I needed at the apartment already. I just needed to pick up veggies and some odds & ends. I was in and out of the store in about 20 minutes, despite many people who were not at all acquainted with the trolley rules.

Back to R's I went, sans egg nog unfortunately, and finished the preparations. I had everything ready by 5:30 or so. This was wonderful, compared with the previous dinner with K. After having to shop twice on Saturday (Gristedes' credit card machine was down), I barely made it back to the apartment before he arrived, when I'd planned to have all my prep done and have dinner just simmering when he arrived. Instead, I ended up shouting at him from the kitchen for a while. He was great about coming in to chat and pour more wine.

On Tuesday by contrast, everything went like clockwork, Christmas Eve or no. I refreshed myself with a quick shower. I lit candles, listened to music, sang along, played with the cat and just stared at the wall in semi-darkness for the better part of an hour. I don't make time to destimulate myself like that nearly often enough. Wonderful!

K arrived a bit after 7, once again bearing a most welcome bottle of Shirraz. He opened and poured while I set up the first course. I didn't think a topping of breadcrumbs and herbs would do much for the mussels, but the mixture of textures and flavors, especially with generous squeezes of lemon on top, was divine.

Next up was the cioppino. I was curious if it would be like other soups, stews or chili, which always seem to improve after a day or two in the fridge. Indeed, the flavors were nicely blended this second time around.

At that point, K started to joke that I probably had mussel ice cream. He's only lucky I didn?t think of it. I certainly could have made a bit of a dessert with a few mussels, lemon, blood orange marmalade and the pomegranate seeds left over from Saturday. It's sick that I can think of that now.

The final course was the remaining steamed mussels, served around a bed of charred red and orange bell peppers and onions with lemon wedges. I have to say, the presentation was nice. I'm not generally that chi chi, but it came naturally in this instance.

After K washed the dishes, we finished off the wine, listened to more music and watched the Chevy Chase roast on Comedy Central. That was entirely wrong and bad. It was great!

Around midnight, K. sprung up to go back to Brooklyn, lest he turn into a pumpkin. I walked him to the elevator, and said goodnight. I opened the pull out, so I could completely sprawl out and turned on the marathon of A Christmas Story, to which I awoke on Christmas morning.

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