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Cooking By The Book: 'Top Chef' winner has a way with mussels

Competitive cooking has become a serious televised sport, epitomized by cable TV’s "Top Chef." The creators of that program have released “Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook” (Chronicle), a compilation of 75 recipes highlighting the best work from contestants during the show’s first five seasons plus the first season of "Top Chef Masters."

The book is larded with many appealing dishes home cooks will want to try, from Jamie’s Chickpea Soup to Spike’s Sensual Beef Salad to Antonia’s Deep-Dish Pizza with Prosciutto, Burrata and Arugula.

We enjoyed Stephanie’s White Ale-Orange Juice Mussels, a recipe from talent Chicago chef Stephanie Izard whose new restaurant, the Drunken Goat, is on the verge of opening.

The beer-and-citrus broth used in this preparation add a tasty new dimension to these mussels. In making the mayonnaise, follow the instructions carefully, slowly and constantly adding the oil to the yolk, vinegar and mustard in a processor – otherwise the ingredients won’t come together.

Izard was the first female "Top Chef" winner.

(Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a main course)

4 oranges
1 egg yolk at room temperature
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. honey
Salt and pepper
2 Tbl. butter
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 cup white ale
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnishing
Chopped scallions for garnishing
1 loaf crusty bread, warmed in oven or sliced and grilled, for serving
Juice 3 of the oranges, and cut the other into supremes (large segments, minus the pith)

Combine the yolk, vinegar and mustard in a blender or food processor. Pour the oil through the feed tube in a slow drizzle until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and add the chile and honey. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the fennel, onion and garlic and sweat for a few minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add the orange juice and mussels. Cover and steam just until the mussels open and the meats loosen from their shells, 1 to 3 minutes. add the ale and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, pour the mussels and broth into a large bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and garnish with the orange segments and some cilantro leaves and scallions. Serve with the warmed bread.

To debeard mussels
Soak the mussels in cold water for about 30 minutes. One by one, pull out the tough little mass of fibers the mussel uses to attach to rocks by grasping the “beard” tightly and yanking it swiftly toward the hinge end of the mussel. If you buy farmed mussels, you can skip the soaking and debearding and go straight to the cooking and eating.

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