Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spicy Tomato Basil Mussels

Every time I mention to my husband how much I love mussels, he makes some variation of the same comment: "Of course you do. That's why you married me."


Lame jokes aside, I do love these little guys.  I worked at an awesome seafood restaurant in Boston for about a year back in the day and ate them all the time there.  But I am only just beginning to learn how to cook them at home.  See, I grew up in Nebraska.  And my parents both grew up in Iowa.  So we didn't have a lot of mussels growing up.  "Fish" in our house was frozen fish sticks.  

But thankfully we now have YouTube, which has AWESOME tutorials for how to prepare and store your mussels which lets this farmland beef and corn raised gal know what the heck she's doing with bivalves:

My husband and I did this together last night.  The only thing that she didn't explain clearly in the video is what to do if the mussel is already closed.  We just laid them out on our counter and waited very quietly.  Within a few minutes, they will begin to open up again if they are alive.  Some take longer than others; it's almost as if some of them are more skeptical!  

I love doing this kind of dish in the crockpot.  I think it's perfect for a busy day, because you have your mussels prepped in the fridge and the sauce simmering away in your crockpot, and all you need to do is add the mussels 30 minutes before you want to eat.  It's perfect for having company over for that exact reason, too.  Do almost all of the prep work ahead of time... and look like a rock star later.

Serves 4.

The Tools:

6 qt. crockpot

2 1/2 (ish) lbs. mussels
3 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallot cloves, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 T oregano
1/2 T basil
1/2 t black pepper
1 t paprika
dash red chili flakes
3/4 cup water

The Process:

In a large saute pan, heat up olive oil.  Cook garlic, shallots and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is just a bit brown and fragrant.  Scrape entire contents of the pan into your crockpot.

Add all remaining ingredients to your slow cooker except your mussels.  Cook on LOW for 4-5 hours, or on HIGH for 2-3 hours.  You're cooking until your mushrooms are fork tender and until the flavors meld together.

NOW - tackle those mussels just like the video above shows you how.  Not sure if it's alive or not?  If you're on the fence, toss it.  It's not worth getting sick over.  I bought 2 3/4 lbs originally, and ended up tossing 4 mussels total, leaving me with right at 2 1/2 lbs.  You should budget a bit of wiggle room and plan to throw out a few.

Once your mushrooms are cooked and your sauce is done, crank the crockpot up to HIGH.  Add cleaned mussels to the pot and secure lid tightly.  Cook for 30 more minutes.

Ladle your mussels into bowls with plenty of broth.  If any mussels didn't open up during cooking, toss those as well.  You don't want whatever is in there.  

Traditionally, you'd serve a dish like this with crusty bread to sop up the broth... but I just dig out all of the mussels, stir it into the broth and then eat it like a soup.  

Delicious!  Enjoy!

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