Paying Homage To The Mighty Mussel

Tennessee Aquarium’s 4th Annual Serve And Protect Event Is Sept. 4

Thursday, August 07, 2014 - by Thom Benson
Barton Seaver
Barton Seaver
- photo by Allie Cotrill

What do you know about Blue Mussels?

If you’re an archaeologist, you might tell people about how they’ve been unearthed in kitchen middens dating back to 6,000 B.C. If you’re an ecologist, you probably tout the way mussels purify water while filter-feeding. If you’re a aquaculturist, you can’t wait to show everyone the way they’re grown on ropes. And if you are a nutritionist, you love the fact that mussels are packed with heart- and brain-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

But if you are a chef, you simply love the many ways you can prepare mussels to tempt the taste buds of everyone. “What I love most about mussels is how quick and easy they are to prepare,” said chef Tamie Cook. “In about 15 minutes you can have a delicious and impressive meal on the table. While mussels are still a little unknown in the Southeast, I love introducing people to their sweet, slightly briny flavor.”

Cook will produce and host a live, Food-Network styled cooking show as part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s fourth annual Serve & Protect Sustainable Seafood event on Sept. 4. The four-course evening is designed to be an entertaining and informative event with many opportunities to try something new. “Having two chefs like Barton Seaver and Nico Romo sharing the stage for this year’s event is very exciting,” said Cook. “They are both warm, funny and very enthusiastic about the Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program. I think people will really enjoy the combination of knowledge and energy they’ll bring to Chattanooga.”

While mussels will never replace shrimp as America’s number one seafood choice, the Blue Mussel is gaining in popularity.  Restaurant patrons are discovering the sweet, tender meat while more and more chefs like Romo are developing new ways to prepare delectable mussel dishes. “Mussels have always been one of my favorite ingredients. They are fast, easy to cook and incredibly versatile” said Romo. “The flavors of the mussels du jour that I prepare at Fish Restaurant in Charleston range from spicy tomato-ginger to bacon, yellow curry and even local beer. Mussels add depth to our signature seafood bouillabaisse, and of course, moules & frites is a traditional French dish I love to serve.”

In spite of rising demand and the fact that farming Blue Mussels actually improves water quality, there is still a mussel deficit in the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, around $30 million dollars of mussels are imported each year compared to the $6.7 million dollars farmed here.

Cook believes that everyone attending the Serve & Protect events will leave satisfied, both having enjoyed an elegant seafood dinner in an Aquarium gallery and learning tips and techniques that can help everyone flex their culinary muscles preparing sustainable seafood dishes at home.

To give everyone a head start, Cook is sharing her recipe for “Mussels Opa!” Cook says mussel farming is relatively new to Greece, but has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. “I love Greek food, so I wanted to create a mussel recipe that had a taste of the Mediterranean,” said Cook. “I think I was craving a gyro and a Greek salad when I developed this recipe. So serve it with grilled pita to soak up all of the delicious juices and you’ll be saying Opa!”

Chef Tamie Cook’s Mussels Opa!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup diced fresh tomato

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons ouzo or other anise flavored liquor

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives, optional

Grilled pita bread

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet set over medium heat.  Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic and salt and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the tomato and stir to combine.  Add the wine, ouzo and mussels.  Cover and cook 2 minutes. Toss and continue to cook 2 to 3 more minutes or until most of the mussels are opened.  Remove any unopened mussels and add the parsley, oregano, feta and olives, if using.  Serve with grilled pita bread for sopping up the juices.

Serves four as an appetizer or two as a main course.

---

Fourth Annual Serve & Protect Event - Thursday, Sept. 4

5:30 – 6:30 pm Cocktails & Appetizers

IMAX Great Hall

 

6:45 pm Live Cooking Show

IMAX Theater

 

8:00 pm Elegant Seated Dinner

Tennessee Aquarium

 

9:00 pm Dessert Reception

River Journey Lobby

 

To learn more about Chef Nico Romo and Chef Barton Seaver and to buy tickets, go to: www.tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood

 

 

 


Nico Romo
Nico Romo
- Photo2 by Fish Restaurant

Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern Opens Next Weekend

The Dark Legacy of Elder Shaw themes this year’s Haunted Cavern at Ruby Falls for its 11 th   season, opening   Friday   and   Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27 , every Friday - Sunday , beginning   Oct. 3   till   Nov. 1 , as well as   Oct. 9 . Get in line by   7:30 p.m. nightly for the Freak Parade if you dare. ... (click for more)

Tennessee's Fall-tastic Festivals

With cooler temperatures come a plethora of festivals in Tennessee that will pack any fall calendar. World-renown food festivals, lots of concerts, and a new museum honoring the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll are just some of the things happening in the Volunteer State during the autumnal months. It’s time to throw on some layers, grab a pumpkin spice latte, and travel to Tennessee to enjoy ... (click for more)

Inmate Found Dead In County Jail Early Saturday Morning

An inmate died in the Hamilton County jail Saturday morning. Notification was received from the Hamilton County 911 Center at   12:50 a.m. ,   regarding an inmate found unresponsive.   Jail personnel found the male inmate unresponsive in his cell and initiated C.P.R. while notifying Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services. The party ... (click for more)

Democratic Chairman Roy Herron Announces He Will Not Run For 2nd Term

Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron announced Saturday at a meeting of the Tennessee Democratic Party State Executive Committee that he would not be seeking a second term as party chairman. “I have been blessed to serve as chairman these past two years, and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all of the executive committee members, party officials, staff members, and friends ... (click for more)

You’re Right With Lamar

One of Tennessee’s favorite sons, Davy Crockett, coined an oft-used phrase:  “Be always sure you’re right, then go ahead.” Being sure is quite important, but may be difficult in this election cycle. The Democratic nominee campaigning against Lamar Alexander is a man whose radio ads call for “change,” “fair” taxes and more jobs.  Sounds good, huh?   ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Okay … here we go. A number of readers have complained that I haven’t shared any jokes that my friends send to my email address so on a weekend when our Volunteers and Mocs are idle, let’s laugh a little:   I was sitting in a bar one afternoon with an old friend knocking back a few beers when he said, "You know, if we're not careful we'll end up like those two old drunks ... (click for more)