Monday, March 11, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

I thought I'd post a recipe every so often that's from the Allen House but not in the book; with an accompanying anecdote. Let me know if you like it and want to see more, ok?

Mussles Diablo

  • 40  high-quality mussels
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 baguette, sliced on the diagonal into eight ¼-inch-thick pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes with their juice, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
  • ½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, stems removed and leaves slivered, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish

  • ·  Clean the mussels by scrubbing well under cold running water and removing any beards. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl, and refrigerate. 
  • ·  Pour 1/2 cup of the olive oil into a shallow baking dish. Lay the bread slices in the oil and turn once to coat both sides. Toast the bread for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer the croutons to a plate to cool. 
  • ·  Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil into a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the mussels, tomatoes, and pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Stir well and cook for about 15 minutes. 
  • ·  Add the wine and parsley, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until all the mussels open. (Discard any that do not open.) 
  • ·  Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large serving bowl. Garnish with parsley and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Stud the bowl with the croutons and serve.

When we made this dish at the Allen House, we tried to use Cuttyhunk mussels as often as possible.  I discovered Cuttyhunk mussels the spring I first came out to the island.  

 After Hunter and I finished work for the day, I would spend the remaining daylight hours wandering, following every deer path and dirt road to its end.  One day at low tide, while exploring the tip end of the spit of land upon which Mel Dorr’s house stood, I stepped cautiously out onto some seaweed-slick rocks to examine a tide pool uncovered by the outgoing water and spied among the barnacles a bivalve I recognized.  

 The previous year in Boston I had taken a shortcut every day from the red line T stop at Central Square to my second job at Adams lighting company in Inman Square.  This shortcut took me up a side street with a small fish market on it.  Since my two jobs barely covered my expenses in Boston, I was always on the lookout for cheap food, and the fish market often carried a sign in the window advertising mussels, 3 pounds for a dollar.  I quickly became a mussel aficionado.  

 The shellfish clinging to the rocks among the barnacles might not look exactly like the cleaned and packaged mussels from my fish market, but they were familiar enough to recognize.  I gathered several dozen of the largest and carried them back to the Allen House in my T-shirt.  That night I had my first taste of what really fresh seafood could taste like, and I was hooked. 

 On later walks I discovered the huge beds of mussels exposed on the rocks of the West End at low tide.  These mussels carried the equivalent of a crackerjack prize inside their shells; a tiny crab that when steamed inside the mussels provided a burst of salty flavor that to me, and to many others, was a real delicacy.

Want more recipes? Let me know. Got one to share? Post it here. And stay tuned for more completely different things.