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In Like A Lion On Leap Day

Mussels with Bacon, Cilantro and Tomato

What is the first thing I do when I hear a snow storm is coming? I start planning dinner. I collect cookbooks and there is a series I am particularly fond of- The Best American Recipes. They were published annually and included the best recipes from newspapers, magazines, books and the internet. You can pick them at used book stores or Amazon.com, I believe they are out of print. I pulled the 2003 - 2004 cookbook off my shelf and ran across the perfect snow storm dinner- Mussels with Bacon, Cilantro and Lime. Although, the snow didn't start until well after dinner, it was the perfect precursor to the biggest snow storm we have had all winter.

After dinner is situated, the next hurdle to the perfect snow storm experience is the wine. I need to stop here and explain my deep and profound love of wine. There is something about uncorking (or unscrewing) a bottle of wine- you are unleashing the winemaker's intentions into your kitchen, dining room, sauna, etc. Think about it, winemaking is a little like raising a child- you tend the vines, pick the grapes when you think they are ready and hopefully create a wine that is meaningful and resonates with the wine drinker. The beautiful part of winemaking is that is a leap of faith- you provide the raw materials for greatness but it is what happens in the bottle and environment that ultimately determines the outcome. How can you not be awed when you have that first sip and it hits you, 'this is something special'. Don't get me wrong, I am a mere babe in the woods when it comes to wine knowledge. There is so much more to learn but like all good students, I have a healthy amount of awe and appreciation for the teachers and subject. Now back to the snow storm dinner. When I came in the kitchen, Ted had opened a bottle of wine. I have to admit, I was a little flummoxed. First of all, he is a resolute amber-colored liquor imbiber. Secondly, I am a little controlling when it comes to what we we drink with what we eat.  He opened a bottle of 2008 Bogle Phantom- a gnarly blend of old vine zinfandel, petite sirah and old vine mourvedre. Outstanding choice for the mussels with tomatoes and bacon. Bogle Phantom is one of my favorites- it definitely needs times to 'gather itself' but once it unwinds- it is a great wine. If I had the self-control, I am sure it would improve with age in a cellar.

When we woke up on the 29th, the snow was just starting. It was one of the best days we have had all winter. The freedom a snow day gave us was a gift and we made sure to enjoy every minute.

Mussels with Bacon. Cilantro and Tomato

1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (use the best bacon you can find)

2 large shallots, thinly sliced (I substituted yellow onion)

1 large jalapeno, thinly sliced (I used the seeds)

14 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1/4 cup butter

Cook the bacon in a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the fat. All the shallots and jalapeno, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Increase the heat to high and add the mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Add the butter, lime juice and cilantro and serve with crusty bread.