Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steamed Mussels in a White Wine Saffron Broth

Mussels are usually something that grow on people.  I had one of my favorite mussel dishes at JAX and became instantly addicted.  It's called a "steamer" which basically means mussels steamed in a fabulous broth and some sort of pasta to soak up all the goodness.  This was my first shot at the dish and it was so much easier than I could have fathomed....and CHEAPER! I went to my local Whole Foods and found mussels for about $4 a pound...that's $4 a person to get incredibly full on a fancy (yet easy) meal! Basically one pound will fill a person up.  Especially if you serve with some sort of pasta and crusty toasted bread.


-2-4 lbs of mussels (1 lb per person)
-6 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 white onion, chopped
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 Tbsp butter
-3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tbsp dried)
-1 pinch saffron threads (optional, would still be great without)
-1 cup white wine
-4 cups chicken broth
-1 Tbsp tomato paste
-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
-1pkg. pasta (I used fusilli, but any will work, linguine is a great option)
-6-10 pieces toasted french bread

The first thing to know about mussels is that you want to make sure they always get oxygen.  Therefore don't  tie the plastic bag shut when you get it at the store. Instead keep it open and carefully carry to your car and home.  When you get home you will want to store them in a large bowl or tupperware with a few pieces of ice in the fridge UNCOVERED...or just with a towel over the top. Not sealed.   You could also put the mussels in a bowl and then in another larger bowl filled with ice.   Rinse your mussels well before cooking.

First, finely chop you onion and garlic.  I know it seems like a lot of garlic and onion, but I promise it will be worth it to make a rich flavorful broth.  This was a tip from friend originally from the Northeast and grew up making mussels.  In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add olive oil.  Add the onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the onions are clear. 

Add the white wine and a pinch of saffron threads to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, tomato paste, red pepper flakes and thyme to the pot.  Bring to a boil again and then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Simmer for 10-20 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, cook your pasta in a separate pot according to package directions.  Reserve some of the pasta liquid in a coffee mug.  Drain the pasta, put back in a pot and pour a little pasta water back in to keep the pasta from sticking.  Put a lid over to keep the moisture in.  This is the pasta I found at Whole Foods, and it was great! This is also a good time to toast the bread in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes per side until toasty.  Spray each side with PAM olive oil to help them brown.

Bring the broth back to a boil and plop the mussels in the pot.  Put the lid on and steam the mussels 5-10 minutes or until the mussels open up.  You don't want to overcook or they will get chewy.

In large bowls put some pasta in the bottom and fill with mussels and a few ladles of broth.  Stick a piece of toast in the bowl and serve the remaining toasts at the table.  Serve each bowl with a fork and a spoon...you'll need them both!  Make sure to leave the unopened mussels alone, don't pry open and eat..they probably aren't good. Also, don't forget to put a large bowl in the middle of the table for the shells. Enjoy a yummy, quick yet fancy meal!

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