Sustainable, dirt cheap, simple to prepare, low in fat, high in protein, and filled to the brim with vitamin B12, mussels could be the perfect seafood. Served as part of Lidia Bastianich's Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce, there's no doubt about it. It's the fanciest 15-minute meal you'll ever make.
I bought the mussels themselves for $2.50 per pound at the farmers' market (Union Square Greenmarket in New York City). Scrubbing and de-bearding was a tad time-consuming, but still went way faster than say, gutting a butternut squash (a.k.a. my nemesis). If you buy them pre-cleaned, they may cost a little more, but the time saved could be worth the expenditure.
Either way, it's comparatively little effort for spectacular results. The sauce is savory and garlicky and has enough kick to save it from being pedestrian. For a spicier brew, you might use ground cayenne, but I preferred the subtler red pepper flakes. Served over linguine or thin spaghetti (see here), it's homecooked gourmet suitable for Wednesday night or Christmas Day.
Bastianich, for the win.
- 2 pounds mussels
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 8 cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- A few basil leaves or one sprig fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pasta to serve
In a large pot, combine cornmeal and three quarts cool water. Stir in mussels and let sit for one hour, shaking it once or twice during.
Drain the mussels. Scrub them thoroughly under cool water. Pull off their seaweed-y beards if necessary, and discard any that aren’t tightly shut.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add garlic cloves and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure they don’t burn.
Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes and stir together. Cook 5 minutes.
Pour mussels in skillet, and the wine on top of that. Stir and bring the heat up a little. Once it starts boiling, put a lid on it and cook for 3 minutes, or until all mussels have opened.
Kill heat. Stir in herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta.