Let’s talk about muscles, errr…I mean mussels. Mussels have the most pronounced flavor of the bivalves (i.e. clams, oysters, scallops, geoducks, mussels). Because of their pronounced flavor many people don’t like mussels preferring, instead, clams, scallops and oysters. We like mussels but we like almost all seafood. This recipe is a wonderful dish and very versatile in its use.
Did you know that mussels are a hardy animal? In fact, they are one of the most abundant mollusks. They live almost everywhere in the world from the boreal waters to the tropics, saltwater and freshwater and numerous varieties. Blue mussels are the variety that is sold widely in grocery stores and fish markets in the US. Although you can find the New Zealand green lipped mussels periodically at some point in the recent past someone (perhaps that diabolical, worldly nemesis Conor Bofin in his attempt to ensure the lower prices of beef short ribs – Economic warning – DO NOT cook beef short ribs on a bed of garlic served with red wine reduction and celeriac mash) labeled these mussels a “superfood.” Once the superfood label attached the mad rush for New Zealand green lipped mussels began. Now you see green lipped mussel extract and other supplements that will work wonders – don’t worry about the rest of your diet, exercise or health habits. The superfood label along with the fact that New Zealand Greenshell mussel industry operates within some of the strictest quality standards in the world has resulted in the green lipped mussels being much more difficult to find and pricey. It’s a shame, too, because they are beautiful creatures and incredibly tasty. Nonetheless, I digress and must get back to what we have available – blue mussels.
Blue mussels have smooth, equally-shaped, bluish-black “D” shaped shells that are linked together on one side by a hinge. Like other mussels, blue mussels are now being farmed as a sustainable food, especially in Maine because the cold waters of the north Atlantic provide the ideal habitat for blue mussels. The beauty of cultured mussels is they do not touch the ocean bottom but instead, because they are filter feeders, feed off the nutrient-rich water that surrounds them. They are plumper, more tender, have thinner shells, taste sweeter and yield a higher amount of meat than wild blue mussels. They are also free of the grit that you find with wild mussels harvested from the ocean floor. Further, through farming techniques, cultured blue mussels are available year round. Inasmuch as we like mussels, year round availability is a really good thing.
Typically, you find cultured mussels in plastic mesh bags weighing 2 pounds. They have been de-bearded and are ready for your purchase for roughly US$ 9/bag. They cook quickly, are versatile and are perfect for a weeknight meal. This recipe is wonderful as an appetizer, on its own with a little bread, or served atop pasta, whichever if you prefer. On its own with bread, it will serve 6 very easily. Served with pasta it will serve 12. Whatever you do, give this dish a try.
- 4 lbs mussels
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 16 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 pts grape tomatoes, halved
- 25 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 cup basil, shredded
- sea salt, to taste
Heat olive oil in large pot. Add the garlic.
Sauté until golden brown.
Add grape tomatoes
Saute until soft. Add crushed tomatoes.
Add red pepper and oregano.
Cook for 5 minutes. Add the white wine.
Bring to a boil, then add the mussels.
Cover and cook until mussels are open, roughly 3 – 5 minutes. When mussels have opened, stir in basil.
Adjust seasoning. Pour into a serving bowl.
Serve & enjoy!