What’s the word for when you go out and get your own mussels? Fishing? Musseling? Hunting? Catching? Netting? Searching? I have no idea. When I was a kid, my mom would take us…uh….musseling. That so isn’t right, but I don’t care, it’s what I’m going with.
I grew up on Long Island, so we did a lot of fishing, crabbing (ah crap, that’s not right either….that just sounds like a PMS symptom) and musseling. I loved it. I loved the time I was able to spend with my brother and my mom, and I always loved the water. Still do, but now the thought of swimming in the ocean gives me the heebie-jeebies. I think I just woke up one day and thought about where fish and other sea creatures use the bathroom and go to die, and well, I gagged a little. Also, I have a ridiculously irrational fear of whales, but that’s a story for another day. So now I’m a fan of the sandy beach, the sound of the ocean, an afternoon sail and a nice backyard pool.
As it turns out, I did not hop on a boat and catch these mussels myself. I went to the store and bought them, and let me tell you, those suckers are CHEAP! Seafood can be expensive, mussels are not, which is wonderful for me, since I love ‘em!
This is an easy meal. If you want a quick weeknight meal, this would be perfect, if you want a fancy weekend meal, this would totally work too.
4 slices crusty bread
2 pounds black mussels
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole garlic clove plus 3 cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 – 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes
28 oz. can whole tomatoes (diced if you’re in a hurry)
2 Tablespoons tomato puree
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/2 pound of linguine, or any long pasta of your choice
Freshly grated parmesan, optional
Mussels must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed several times before cooking. Wild mussels will need to be scrubbed with a stiff brush to remove any barnacles, sand or grit, and their bear must also be removed. This can be easily done by giving the beard a forceful tug with your fingers and pulling it away or by cutting it off with a sharp knife.
Rinse the mussels several times, but do not let them sit in water, as freshwater will kill them.
Set a large pot of water over high heat. I find it’s better to have a pot of boiling water waiting for you, rather than you having to wait for it. This will be for your pasta. Don’t salt the water until you’re ready to drop the pasta.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Cook the onion, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and salt & pepper, stirring occasionally, about 5 – 8 minutes.
Add the whole tomatoes, puree, basil and wine to the pot. Using a potato masher or the back of your spoon, crush the tomatoes. Be gentle so you don’t get splattered.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes. The longer you can let it sit the better, but if you’re short on time, 15 minutes will do just fine.
Add the cleaned mussels, cover and cook for about 1 – 2 minutes, until the mussels have opened (discard any mussels that don’t open). Uncover the pot, turn the heat to low and wait for the pasta to cook.
Your water should be boiling, add a some salt and drop your pasta in. Long pasta doesn’t take very long to cook. Shoot for al dente, so it doesn’t become a mushy mess once you add your mussels and sauce.
Set the broiler on your oven to high. Brush a little olive oil onto each slice of bread. Toast until brown and crisp. Rub both sided with the whole garlic.
Drain your pasta and set aside.
Get some bowls ready and start building your meal! I like to grate parmesan on top with some additional basil and rest my toast right in the bowl to help soak up all the deliciousness.
Make sure you have an extra bowl for people to drop their empty mussels.