Flowing with the Currant

We’re back to our Armenian adventures and cooking up one of our favorite foods. Mussels!! Now many of you may remember that back in the summer, on our epic road trip to Maine, we harvested and cooked mussels right from our own backyard. 

It remains one of our favorite memories from that vacation. Not to mention one of our favorite recipes

From the time Mr. N was 3, and Miss A was 3 as well, both of the kids have loved mussels. As a parent I always found this a little odd. I mean mussels aren’t exactly the prettiest of foods and not something you find most kids willing to try. Our little guys though – can’t get enough. So when we found the recipe for midia dolma, or stuffed mussels, we knew this was one we had to try. So we picked up some fresh mussels from the Italian grocer. 

The mussels came scrubbed and de-bearded (Well, sort of de-bearded – not quite done to my level of satisfaction.). So we de-bearded as needed and rinsed them with fresh water.

Next we gathered our stuffing ingredients which included basmati rice, a shallot, olive oil, salt, pine nuts, all spice and black currant preserves (fresh currants were no where to be found – at least not at four grocery stores).

We mixed the stuffing up in a skillet….

and gently opened the mussels and filled them with a a teaspoon or two of the stuffing.

And this is where the current shifted directions. You see if you’ve ever tried to pry open a live mussel, it’s not so easy (and it feels a little mean). And then there’s the fact we learned in Maine, that if mussels don’t open during the cooking process that you should discard them. Well, by opening the mussels ourselves, how were we going to know whether they would have opened or not on their own after cooking. So we got spooked. And having had a bout of food poisoning from mussels on our honeymoon years ago, we weren’t about to mess with these little guys. Why ruin a good thing right?!

So, on to plan B. Scratch the Midia Dolma and on to Midia Meechoog, or Mussels with Rice and Currants. So using most of the same ingredients, we cooked the unstuffed mussels in the manner to which we’re more accustomed, in white wine and chicken stock. And we discarded the mussels that didn’t open, setting the “good” ones aside.

We then sautéed an onion in some olive oil (we ran out of shallots) until translucent. After that we tossed in the rice, water, wine and seasonings. The original recipe, which we typically try and stick to, called for ketchup to be used. I just couldn’t bring myself to use ketchup with rice and mussels, so we opted to replace ketchup with red wine.

After the rice simmered for 10 minutes we were ready to add the currant preserves, walnuts (which we switched out with the pine nuts) and mussels.

We then simmered the rice for another 15 minutes, before serving.

To serve the mussel dish, we garnished it with fresh lemon slices.

While we were really looking forward to the original stuffed mussels, we were much more comfortable with the new recipe – especially since we’d be feeding the kids too. (And I can still feel the pain from that bout of food poisoning – I do NOT want to go there again.) This new recipe was much more along the lines of something to which we were accustomed – cooked mussels and a risotto-like meal. We had high hopes to say the least.

So what were the results? Well, we had mixed reviews. The mussels by all accounts were a hit. Not a single little mussel morsel was left. The rice, however, had mixed reviews. Currants were a new flavor to all of us and it was definitely a strong influence on the dish. Both Mike and I were a bit taken aback by the intense flavor they brought to the meal. It wasn’t a bad flavor by any means, just not one to which we were familiar. So we weren’t really sure what to make of it. That being the case, Mike came in with a 2 spoon vote and I was teetering between a 2-1/2 and 3 spoon vote.

The kids on the other hand, were totally open to the new flavors and didn’t seem bothered by their intensity. Miss A ate all of her mussels and even had some bites of rice, which is practically unheard of with her. Rice is not something she really cares for, let alone is willing to eat. So she came in with 3 spoons for the mussels and rice.

As for Mr. N, well he devoured three helpings of our midia meechoog. He absolutely loved it – the mussels, the rice, everything (even the onion – gasp!). When asked how many spoons, he didn’t even hesitate, “4 spoons. This is really good. Is Miss A going to eat all of hers?”

Now while Mike and I weren’t exactly raving about this meal, I have to say I was rather proud that we were able to switch recipes in mid-process and come up with something that was equally as Armenian and really not a bad meal. I mean anything that wins over the kids can’t really be considered a loss, you know. That said, I think Mike and I would prefer to stick to the recipes we know and love…mussels in white wine and cream sauces, mussels in a spicy red sauce, mussels in white wine, mussels in a seafood risotto or our favorite, mussels over linguine in a spicy red sauce – yum!

But I digress. So for those of you that are so inclined…Mr. N and Miss A just may be on to something. They’ve been right a time or two before. 😉

Print this recipe: Midia Meechoog (Armenian Mussels and Rice)

54 thoughts on “Flowing with the Currant

  1. Weatherly says:

    I’m Armenian and have never made this dish, but I am pretty sure from knowing typical Armenian ingredients in dishes that this is meant to have those little dried currants that are like raisins in it. We also use tomato paste in a lot of things so I am guessing the ketchup was some sort of Americanized version of it. I may try this recipe with those changes!

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  2. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise says:

    I love how you changed the recipe midway and played it safe. You can never be too careful especially with kids.
    I have to say I love the color of the rice but currants are not my cup of tea either.
    Super impressed by the kids though.

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  3. Deborah says:

    So I’ve only had mussels once, and didn’t care for them. But then again, it was a Chinese buffet restaurant on a family vacation, so I’m sure that had something to do with it!! I’m impressed how you changed half way through!

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    • Kristy says:

      Oh a good mussel – done right…fantastic! I had some with smoked paprika the other day. They were phenomenal. Still, I can see how they aren’t appealing to some too. They do have kind of a grossness factor to get over. 😉

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  4. Karen says:

    I think you definitely did the right thing…food safety above all else. It never ceases to amaze me what your little ones not only eat but like on top of that.

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  5. smartfoodandfit says:

    I agree with Kay, wow your kids are very adventerous with liking mussels. You know, I’ve only had mussels once and I had food poisoning more than once with seafood dishes that I’m hesitant to try to make it at home. The rice dish sounds amazing and your right Mr. N and Ms. A just might be onto something!

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    • Kristy says:

      I think your kids are absolutely adventurous too. The amount of different healthy things they’re willing to eat (read: vegetables) is amazing! I love it. 🙂

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  6. Purely.. Kay says:

    You know something… I never heard of kids liking mussels either. And I am surprised Miss A ate the rice, but maybe she enjoyed it because it was a different color? Whatever the case.. the rice does look appetizing and I’m not a huge rice eater either lol

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    • Kristy says:

      They are amazing with what they’ll try. And I’m just so happy to see their palates expanding too. Just last night Mr. N enjoyed mushrooms in a dish and knowingly ate them. Then tonight they finally both ate my lasagna! Woo hoo! 🙂

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  7. fati's recipes says:

    Oh this is a nice difference, to that typical mussel and pasta dish I always see… I like the fact the shells aren’t on the plate. I think it’s easier eating… maybe I get it from dad, he doesn’t like the tail on the prawn because he has to disturb his peacful nom nom noming to get rid of it 🙂
    I haven’t seen blackcurrent stock down here, might need to make it by hand (?) if I end up cooking rice like this… which I think looks amazing!

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  8. Charles says:

    Blackcurrants, eh? What an intriguing dish – I can’t imagine what they’d be like together – with the mussels. I bet it gives a real fruity acidity to them. I totally see what you mean about the mussels – I think I would have opted for the “path of least resistance” too, especially since I’ve had way too many run-ins with bad mussels in the past to want a repeat experience 😦

    It looks beautiful Kristy, and really interesting and fun, although I don’t think I’ll be able to make it here. I can almost never find blackcurrants – I’m convinced that the French blackcurrant stocks are all shipped off to factories to make creme de cassis each year 😦

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    • Kristy says:

      Oh I feel your pain. Just the thought of bad mussels is enough to send the waves of pain back into my stomach. Blech! This was a fun dish – totally outside of our comfort zone and it introduced us to some new flavors. And I too can never seem to find fresh currants. One of these days. I’m not giving up. 🙂

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    • Kristy says:

      I think they are similar, but I also want to say there’s a slight difference. I think I’d need to try them side-by-side to make a direct comparison. I know Miss A prefers the black mussels, so there must be a bit of a difference. The black mussels are also a lot smaller than the green mussels. 🙂

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  9. Just A Smidgen says:

    I’ve had seafood poisoning as well.. nothing could be worse!! I think your mid-recipe switch up was a great idea.. and the risotto did look very colorful and pretty! I think it would be worth giving it a try if your kids loved it:)

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    • Kristy says:

      Me too Greg! That said, I’m always willing to try them any which way. I just love eating them. I had a recipe last night that steamed them with some smoked paprika – holy goodness! That was a killer way to eat them. 🙂

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  10. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    Clever title! I’ve never had mussels in a currant sauce (mostly wine, cream or tomato based sauces) so I think this is really intriguing and would be completely open to it (and how great is the colour of the rice!). I can appreciate that it would be a different experience though and good for you guys shifting gears halfway through the project (I don’t blame you, food sickness is not pretty!). Ah, memories of Maine… and I’m enjoying your photo exploration Kristy – the nice set-up with the bread basket and oil/vinegar… well done…!

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    • Kristy says:

      I think we opened about six or seven and I just couldn’t do it anymore. It just wasn’t sitting right with me. 🙂 Much happier cooking them first.

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  11. spicegirlfla says:

    I would have switched gears too, stuffing a mussel initially sounded good but I’m like you on worrying about food poisoning!! Mr N amazing me…really, what little boy would dig in and enjoy a mix of all those flavors!! I thought kids always wanted their food separated on the plate…you know, never touching!! I’m familiar with tasting food having currants added and it does take me back to get a sweet taste so I know where you are going with that so I’d stick to the basic mussel recipes too!!

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    • Kristy says:

      He is amazing isn’t he. He is definitely not a keep foods separate kind of kid. He even mixes breakfast cereals which blows my mind. There’s no way I could do that even now. LOL. 🙂

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  12. Eva kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com says:

    I have to agree with you Kristy, food poisoning is not something you play around with, it can lead to long-term illnesses such as arthritis and worse. You did very well being able to ‘switch up’ the recipe to something more comfortable. The currents seem more like a jam to me, so I would have to agree, it would taste a bit odd for me too!
    When you actually fished the fresh mussels out of the ocean, did you have to clean them any special way (like having them sit in a bucket for a day with lettuce so the ingest the lettuce and waste the sand?) Just curious.

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    • Kristy says:

      We did have to clean the mussels. We scrubbed off the barnacles and the mud. I can’t recall if we soaked them in water with cornmeal or not. I know we did that with the live clams. I think with the mussels we just cleaned them off and de-bearded them. 🙂

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  13. Caroline says:

    No way, you definitely don’t want to go back to food poisoning–not fun at all! Been there and don’t want that to happen again. Smart idea to cook the mussels as you’ve done before, I’m sure it turned out for the best! I’m not a huge fan of mussels, primarily because of the texture, but if they had a filling such as this, I don’t think I’d mind them one bit. 😉

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    • Kristy says:

      You know it’s funny. I don’t have a problem eating mussels, but I don’t like the texture of clams or oysters even though they’re fairly similar. But I could eat mussels just about every day. 🙂

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  14. ChgoJohn says:

    Like you, I would have been leery working with raw mussels and think you did right to change course. It sounds like you did quite well! And the variety of foods your SousChefs enjoy never ceases to amaze me. It’s great!

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  15. sallybr says:

    OUCH! That one got me! The currant was probably a bit too strong, and I’m a bad swimmer… 😉

    Lovely post, I never cooked mussels at home – I probably have said that in a comment in your blog before, but memory fails me… I am a mussel-wimp. Gotta try that sometime

    Currants are an interesting ingredient, I used them every once in a while, they do taste pretty strong, don’t they?

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    • Kristy says:

      The currants are definitely an intense flavor. I had no idea! They kids seem to love it though. They’ve been enjoying the leftover preserves on toast for the past week or so now. 🙂

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  16. Courtney says:

    I love mussels – and can’t fault you for worrying about the food poisoning. It looks like your mid-cooking change, though, didn’t turn out too bad, especially if Mr. N was that into the recipe. (And I’m so jealous that you got to dig for clams on your summer trip. I used to go with my great grandma as a kid, and haven’t been in years. Definitely going on my list of things to do with the boys this summer!)

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