Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery. Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables. Holler.
However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation. In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy. This made my husband feel unhappy.
To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious. (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)
Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce
2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
big scoop of all-purpose flour
big pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
lots of chopped parsley
about a cup of white wine
Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water. Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes. Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off. Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat. Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up. You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery. Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.
After spending about 20 years in the suburbs of Boston, raising my two siblings and me, they moved full time to the very outer reach of the Cape a couple of years ago. They now spend time going to yoga and planting in their garden. They oyster. Yes, that’s actually a verb (or at least it is out here, where folks buy yearly permits – November to March – for the joy of hunting for oysters once a week in their sandy beds).
My dad still works and my mom chases after the dog after birdwatching gets too exciting and she (the dog, not my mom) decides she must.join.them.NOW.
My parents also cook.
(Note: This is not a budget friendly meal. It’s also not an exact recipe – substitute your favorite seafood, vegetables, etc. Before you get started, make sure your carrots, onions, garlic, zest, basil, tomatoes, etc. are prepped. Once the stew gets going, it’ll cook quickly.)
Cape Cod Stew
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 28oz cans plum tomatoes, juices drained and crushed with your hands
3 cups chicken or seafood broth
4-5 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into strips
2 tablespoons orange zest
a dash crushed red pepper
1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
2 pounds mussels, cleaned
1 pound littleneck clams, cleaned
3/4 pound (uncooked) shrimp – in their shells will be tastiest, though the shells are a bit tricky to peel off in your stew
1-2 tablespoons Pernod or ouzo
First, make sure your clams and mussels are clean. If not, soak them in a large pot of cold water and add a few tablespoons of flour; let sit for 1/2 hour. Discard any mussels or clams that are not tightly sealed closed. Remove the beards from the mussels.
In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add a few turns of olive oil (about 1/4 cup). Heat through and add onions and carrots. Saute a few minutes, until softened. Add garlic, tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, orange zest, red pepper flakes and some salt. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add fish and mussels; simmer three minutes. Add clams and shrimp – cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp turns pink. (NOTE: depending on the size of the mussels/clams, you may need to adjust the cooking times.) Add tablespoon or two of Pernod or ouzo; taste the broth and adjust the seasonings to taste (salt, basil, zest, pepper, crushed reds). Serve immediately, garnished with an orange slice – a squeeze or two throughout the meal is delicious. Goes well with some warm, crusty bread.
This stew showcases the best of the Cape. Each bite = serious, serious love. Share judiciously.