Mussels Provençal

May 1, 2007

Mussels Provençal
Varietal: Semillon

Chef, cookbook author, specialty-food producer, and owner of five Seattle restaurants, Tom Douglas is credited with putting Pacific Northwest cuisine on the map. Etta’s, his paean to the region’s local seafood bounty, is located just north of the Pike Place Market, where it attracts a fair share of locals and tourists alike. It’s the kind of casual place where you can get a wedge o’ iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, a sashimi tuna salad with green-onion salad, or a whole wok-fired Dungeness crab, along with an enticing glass of Northwest wine (the wine list was designed by Market neighbor Michael Teer, owner of Pike and Western Wine Shop). This steamed mussel dish, an original creation from Chef Tom, is one of the most unique you’ll ever eat because of the addition of shiitake mushrooms and kalamata olives to the tomato-white wine broth. I like to pair it with a crisp, dry white wine, such as a Semillon. Light to medium straw in color, sometimes with a hint of green in the glass, Semillon has a bracing, supple texture. Its grassy, herbaceous aromas and citrus and pear fruit flavors, combined with a flinty finish, cut through the strong, complex flavors in this rich, herb-filled dish.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
24 oil-cured olives, such as kalamata or niçoise, pitted
4 teaspoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and/or parsley
2 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded just before cooking
1/4 lemon cut into 2 wedges
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Four sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until small bubbles form. Add the mushrooms and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic, tomatoes, olives, herbs, and mussels. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the contents of the pan and throw the wedges into the pan. Add the white wine, butter, and rosemary and thyme sprigs. Shake the pan or stir to mix well.
2. Cover and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mussels open. Shake the pan occasionally during cooking to redistribute the mussels. With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels that have opened and continue cooking the remaining mussels 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the open mussels and discard the rest. Taste the broth and season with salt and pepper, if desired. (I find the olives provide enough salt, and the garlic and lemon enough flavor, that the pepper isn’t necessary.)
3. To serve, divide the mussels, mushrooms, olives, and broth among individual bowls, or transfer to a large serving bowl. Be sure to provide seafood forks, a shell dish, and extra napkins for handy clean up.

Serves 4 as an appetizer; 2 as a light entrée

Recipe Courtesy of Chef Tom Douglas, as printed in the Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook, Gift Edition (Ten Speed Press, 2005)