Steamed mussels is a very popular dish in the Mediterranean. To be honest, back in Spanish Harlem, we never had mussels as a dinner dish. We had it in sandwiches, yes, sandwiches. Figurer that one out. It wasn’t until my early manhood that I enjoyed steamed mussels. And invariably it was Provençal style. That is, infused in a broth with olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and a host of other herbs. The mussels are steamed in their own juices and served with crusty bread. In the recipe given, we serve them with fresh spinach, braised in the broth in which the mussels are steamed. Another good aspect of this dish is that leftover broth can be used as a base for a cream sauce for fish, poultry or even steak.
Today we are fortunate that most markets have mussels that come already cleaned. So, you don’t have to spend time cleaning the suckers .But if you are not fortunate enough to get mussels already set, then you will have to go through the ritual of removing all the barnacles, seaweed material and sand from the shells. Then you will have to scrape off the “beards” from the barnacles with a clam knife or any bunt-edged knife. Afterward, you put the mussels in a deep bowl and cover them with cool water. It’s good to agitate them with your hands for 30 seconds or so. Finally you drain them well and discard the water. You repeat this until the water is clear. Discard any mussels that open before it is cooked.
Admittedly, the above procedure is a pain in the you-know-what. But, as stated, you’ll probably find cleaned and prepared mussels in most markets. Something that makes it all easier.
One of the great things about mussels is that you can use whatever variety of seasonings you desire. In French cuisine, the favorite ingredients are white wine and shallots, that’s it. As for myself, I like to liven them up with whatever herbs and seasonings I have in the cupboard. So, give yourself and family a treat today. Get some mussels and go at it. It’s a cheap, delicious meal and, apart from the cleaning and preparation, the dish can be cooked in 5-6 minutes.
STEAMED MUSSELS PROVENÇAL
2 pound fresh mussels
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped onions
1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
½ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- If mussels come in a package, already clean, then proceed with recipe. If not, scrub them, remove beards and barnacles and wash in cold water. Drain well (see above).
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or saucepan. Add garlic, onions and sweet red pepper, Cook briefly over medium heat until wilted. Stir often and do not burn garlic.
- Add tomatoes, saffron, turmeric, red pepper flakes, wine, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes.
- Add mussels and parsley. Cover pan tightly and cook over high heat until all the mussels are opened., 5 to 6 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread.
Yield: 4 or more servings
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