Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.
My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.
St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.
It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.
During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.
Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!
French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.
Squash is one of those quintessential autumn foods that we have come to recognize. Even though it is considered a winter squash, acorn squash belongs to the same species as all summer squashes including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. The main difference between the classifications is that summer squashes have soft skins and tender seeds and are fairly perishable, while the winter types have hard shells, fully formed seeds and are very suited to long storage.
For all their many splendored shapes and colors, squash is not something most of us crave, although they are an integral part of the cuisine in scattered points of the globe, such as South and Central America, the West Indies, India and Japan.
The acorn squash is similar in flavor to the butternut squash yet has a bit of a nutty taste to it as well. Resembling its name in shape, the acorn squash usually weigh between 1-2 pounds and generally grow between four and seven inches long.
Roasting them partially before stuffing makes the squash a lot more tender and easier to eat. I am always aware of the concept of ‘seasonal eating’. I was born in September, so I figure its totally natural to love fall food (& colors) such as squash, pumpkin, apples and cranberries.
The large cavity of acorn squash just begs to be filled. In this recipe, seasoned ground turkey and smoked Gouda cheese join forces in the savory stuffing. One squash the size of a grapefruit or a little larger is usually enough for two people.
Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Turkey & Rice
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray the fleshy part of the seeded, acorn squash & place halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until flesh is slightly tender. Cook rice & grate cheese, set aside
In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil. Sauté garlic & shallots for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cumin & thyme & sauté another 3 minutes. Remove veggies from pan & set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet & brown the ground turkey for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain if necessary & add to mixing bowl along with cooked rice. Stir to combine well.
Using a spoon, take equal portions of the filling & place into the cavity of each acorn squash half. Place the baking tray back into the 400 F oven & bake for 20 minutes.
Top each acorn squash half with sprinkles of the shredded cheese. Place back in the oven & bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
When ready to serve, garnish with sliced green onion.
- To make it easier, microwave the acorn squash for a few minutes, just to soften a bit before attempting to slice in half.