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Mussels are pretty much my default shellfish. They're easy to cook, easy to eat, and taste of little more than the sweet, briny ocean. Because mussels are such a blank canvas, it's a breeze to dress them up however you see fit. Ben Sargent's Mussels Fra Diavolo from his new cookbook, The Catch, are an excellent example of the form. The usual diavolo players (chili flakes, tomatoes, white wine) are present, but it's the uncommon addition of roasted garlic that makes the dish memorable.
Why I picked this recipe: Mussels are an easy go-to dish; adding chili and roasted garlic only makes them more tempting.
What worked: The roasted garlic was a standout here, adding additional sweetness and depth to the spicy broth.
What didn't: The recipe doesn't mention to mash up the garlic once it comes out of the oven, but then refers to it as puree. I just gave it a good smush with the olive oil before stirring it into the broth.
Suggested tweaks: You could use this recipe to steam clams, or a mixture of clams and mussels. If you're not into spice, you can cut back on the chili flakes as you see fit. (It will no longer be fra diavolo, but it'll still taste great.) The recipe is also easily cut in half if you're only serving a couple people.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.