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The Fish Market

New Mussel Technology

February 27, 1986|ISAAC CRONIN and PAUL JOHNSON | Cronin and Johnson are co-authors of "The California Seafood Cookbook."

One of the most promising developments in aquaculture is the creation of new technologies for the growth of mussels. Mussels are not exactly a household word in the United States, but all that will change if a group of Canadian mussel farmers have their way.

The Atlantic Mussel Growers Cooperative of Prince Edward Island, an Eastern Maritime province, visited California recently, bringing samples of their delicious mussels as well as information about their product and methods. The PEI growers have traveled to Europe and brought back the latest in aquaculture technology from Spain, Scotland, France and Italy, where hundreds of millions of pounds of mussels are grown and consumed annually.

The PEI mussels, currently about 1.5 million pounds a year, are planted as seed inside long mesh stockings. As the mussels grow, they move to the outside of the stockings, which are attached to long lines. At maturity the lines are pulled up and the mussels are simply scraped off the mesh by hand. The mussels arrive in California within 24 hours of being harvested. They are an ideal product because, unlike wild mussels, their shells are not covered with barnacles and the yield is about 45% meat. One pound will supply generous portions for two people. The meat itself is delightfully sweet and juicy.

Mussels traditionally are served in soups and stews, or steamed open in a little wine or wine and fish stock. Once steamed they can be eaten as is or combined with pasta, tomatoes, herbs, garlic and a little cream. The PEI mussels have smaller fibrous beards than most varieties. These beards should be removed and the mussels should be washed under cold water before cooking.

At a recent tasting organized by William Marinelli of Marinelli Shellfish in San Francisco, the local distributor of PEI mussels, a number of Bay Area chefs demonstrated their best mussel cookery. Among them was this Indonesian-style dish prepared by Cindy Deetz, chef at Norman's Restaurant in Berkeley. INDONESIAN MUSSELS

35 to 40 mussels

1 sweet red pepper

1 yellow pepper

3 jalapeno chiles

1 red onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup coconut water (clear liquid inside coconut)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon salt

Hot cooked saffron rice

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Steam mussels just until open. Set aside.

Cut red and yellow peppers and jalapeno chiles into julienne strips. Remove seeds. Saute onion and peppers in oil in large heavy saucepan until onion is transparent.

Add pineapple juice, coconut water, cumin, chili powder, turmeric and salt. Simmer 3 minutes. Add mussels and simmer additional 3 minutes.

Serve over saffron rice garnished with cilantro leaves. Makes 3 servings.

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