Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spicy Mussels Marinara

Growing up, I was what a parent would describe as an unadventurous eater. My idea of seafood was popcorn shrimp. I loved cheese pizza, milk chocolate, cereal, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and generally nothing too weird. I could eat PB&J every day. It drove my dad crazy. I was a "Plain Jane". 

For those parents who wonder whether their kids will ever learn to love REAL food, I offer my story as a glimmer of hope. I no longer have staring contests with asparagus or brussel sprouts, and I actually look forward to eating steamed oysters with horseradish and Crystal hot sauce. Now, a few decades later, mussels are one of my very favorite meals. I have tweaked this recipe over the last few  years, and I just love the combination of saffron and red pepper flakes. The broth has an amazing flavor, and I will not let a single drop go to waste! 

Spicy Mussels Marinara 
serves 2 hungry people

4 lbs mussels (can use 3 lbs for the less hungry)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp good olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped shallots (5-7 shallots)
1 cup white wine
1 (28oz) can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 tsp Kosher salt and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Saffron threads
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional - adds the heat to the recipe)
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, roughly chopped
baguette for serving

To clean the mussels, put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of cold water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the mussels, then remove the "beard" from each with your fingers. Scrub mussels if they are dirty, and discard any mussels whose shells are not tightly shut. 

In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, then simmer for another 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and add the tomatoes (crush by hand prior to adding), saffron, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. 

Once the sauce is at a simmer, add the mussels, stir the pot, and raise the heat to medium. Cover the pot and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened. Finally, stir in the parsley prior to serving in large bowls with baguette on the side for dipping. 

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