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The Kitchenman: Serving up the Churchill's Landing mussels

The Kitchenman takes us back to a seafood specialty at the old Churchill's on Quebec Street

Being back in Guelph, finding a good job as a junior cook was a challenge.

I had a part time position at a few restaurants but needed to get another job as my income was too tight to mention.

Living at Saginaw Towers was expensive and being desperate I scoured the local want ads for any position and applied for a part time dishwasher at Churchill's Landing on Quebec Street.

I met with the chef and partner and spoke about my plans trying to make some extra cash to get back to Vancouver to carry on my cooking apprenticeship with CP Hotels.

I got hired at three bucks an hour as a dishwasher prep cook. I soon was working more shifts and cleaning all that I was shown. During the peak service times Mona showed me making cold plates for the buffet and some cooking doing short orders.

After a few weeks I was given a raise and got a share of the tips too. More hours were offered and they liked my work experience.

Chef Derrick was quite the master handling a knife just like a surgeon. He cut his own meat from the sides of beef and cut fish fillets from the whole halibut and cod. My job expanded to cleaning mussels and shucking oysters, cutting tons of fresh cut fries and went into a prepping state of mind. Once you've hand-cleaned 20 kg of cold Atlantic mussels, any other kitchen job is a breeze.

I also noticed that the amount of dishes being washed meant this restaurant was really busy. Lunch was fast and furious and lots of folks came for the dinner seafood buffet, prime rib and the Landing's fish and chips. All prepared in-house.

I made lots of the feature mussel pots and fish and chips. This mussel recipe is easy to prepare and requires simple ingredients. For those of you that once dined at Churchill's Landing might remember how tasty these mussels were. 

Start with the best mussels available, the Blue Pacific (M. Californianus) or the blue gold mussel (mytilus edulis) from the east coast.

Scrub clean the mussels and remove the beards. Only use the ones that are closed tightly.

Churchill's mussels

2 kg mussels

1 cup vermouth

1 cup good dry white wine

2 cups unsalted bone broth

1 medium onion fine chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1 small shallot minced

1 leek stalk finely sliced

1 spear of celery fine chopped

1 spear of carrot fine chopped

1 fresh bay leaf

3 bushy sprigs of Italian parsley chopped

4 tbs. of uncultured butter

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

2 tbs. of fine chopped parsley (cilantro optional)

Juice from half a lemon, (Tabasco sauce, Old Bay seasonings optional.)

In a large thick bottom pot over medium heat add half the butter and all the chopped items except the fine chopped parsley.

Add the bay leaf and parsley springs and sauté for about five minutes. Add the salt and pepper and the mussels and turn the burner to high.

Give the pot a stir coating the mussels and then add the wine, vermouth and stock.

Add the lemon juice. Stir again, cover and bring to a boil then turn down the heat to medium and cook till all the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that have not fully opened.

Add the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley and stir lightly till well coated.

You now are ready to serve up into large bowls and sided with a fresh baked baguette for dipping.