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Food Porn Friday: Nice mussels!

Steamed mussels in a chili, coconut and lime broth, courtesy of Chef Jonathan Lestingi.

Steamed mussels in a chili, coconut and lime broth, courtesy of Chef Jonathan Lestingi.

The phrase I most often find myself employing when it comes to the topic of seafood in South Louisiana is "an embarrassment of riches."  Between the oysters, shrimp, blue crabs, soft-shells, and stunningly beautiful Gulf fish, living in these parts is a pescatarian's dream.  Not that it makes us any healthier, really, but I'm sure that might have something to do with our propensity to deep-fat-fry our crustaceans and bivalves.  Which, of course, is something unlikely to change any time soon.  For the love of God, I sure hope it doesn't.

There is, however, one very common and popular fishy protein that was neither common nor popular in my New Orleans upbringing: mussels.  I can't honestly remember seeing them on the menus of either fine-dining restaurants or seafood shacks on the lake, but here in the twenty-teens (seriously, what are we calling this decade, anyway?), they seem to be just about everywhere.

It's not hard to see the appeal of mussels to a chef.  They might not be locavore-friendly -- it's not an ingredient you'll readily find in the brackish bayou waters or the Gulf of Mexico -- but they're cheap, easy to prepare, and versatile.  From Italian linguini frutti di mare to Spanish paella, an Asian-inflected coconut broth or the classic moules frites, there are plenty of ways to explore these tasty and budget-friendly bivalves.

What I love best about mussels, however, isn't the diverse ways in which you can prepare them, nor their wallet-conscious accessibility.  No, it's the fact that they're almost always served with good crusty bread or hot french fries.  Not that anyone needs an excuse to eat fantastic fries or a fresh baguette, but pairing them with mussels is a delectable no-brainer.  Sopping up that fragrant broth is at least half the point, right?  I, for one, couldn't be more grateful that these magnificent mollusks have found their way onto so many New Orleans menus.

And now the question is: How do you like your mussels?


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.