Spicy-Red Mussels

October 31, 2011

Spicy-Red Mussels

Wine Varietal: Cabernet Franc

Serves 8 to 12 as an appetizer

Found the world over and grown commercially in the Pacific Northwest, mussels are plentiful, inexpensive, versatile, and easy to cook. Local Penn Cove and Mediterranean mussels are especially appealing.

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded just before cooking

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, crumbled

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup minced plum tomatoes

1/4 cup firmly packed unseasoned soft bread crumbs (See Cook’s Hint, below)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus extra parsley sprigs for garnish

1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven with a lid, combine the mussels, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and cook until the mussels open, 5 to 7 minutes. 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 any that do not open.

2. If desired, strain the mussel liquid through several thicknesses of dampened cheesecloth and save for use in another recipe. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and reserve. Break each shell into two half shells and save a fourth of the shells, choosing the largest and most attractive ones. Evenly space the shells on a baking sheet, and arrange two mussels in each half shell. Set aside the baking sheet while preparing the filling. Preheat the broiler and arrange the oven rack so that it is 3 to 4 inches from the heat source.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, jalapeño, and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the tomatoes, bread crumbs, cheese, and parsley. Divide the stuffing among the mussels, pressing down so that it forms a layer over the shellfish. Broil until the filling is warmed through and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. To serve, place the mussels on a large communal platter or divide among individual plates. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

Cook’s Hint: To make unseasoned soft bread crumbs, tear a slice of white or whole wheat bread into chunks, place in a food processor, and process until crumbs form. The crumbs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week; in the freezer, tightly wrapped, they keep for about six months.

Recipe from Braiden Rex-Johnson’s private collection.

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