Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mussels Marinara with Spaghetti

This recipe is from my "sister-in-law" Ro Domenico. The first time she made it, I couldn't believe that my children would even eat mussels, not only did they eat them, they asked for seconds and thirds . It has become the only thing that they must have on Christmas Eve. You can vary the other fish dishes, but this is a must have. There are two recipes for this dish, one for the mussels and one for the marinara sauce. We only make this type of marinara sauce with the mussels. First, I'll give you the recipe for the mussels, but you really have to do the sauce and mussels at the same time. The mussels need to soak, and while they are doing that, you can put up the sauce. Then while the sauce is cooking you can clean the mussels. Then you will need to put up a pot for the mussels to cook in and a pot to cook the spaghetti. It is a little tricky at first to coordinate everything, but well worth the effort. I was lucky tonight to have my sons Jeffrey and Steven to help. Jeffrey cleaned and de-bearded the mussels and Steven prepared the lobster. I only made half of the recipe today because we were so few people. It is very easy to cut in half.

The key to making this dish is to have all your prep work done ahead, cans of tomatoes opened, garlic peeled and pressed, parsley chopped, dishes and platters ready, etc. Read through the whole thing before starting.

Rosemarie DiPierdomenico

4 bags Mussels
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley (pull off stems), washed, and chopped
12 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 bottles Inglenook Chablis
Black pepper to taste
¾ cup olive oil
1-2 cups water
3 pounds spaghetti
Marinara sauce

Soak the mussels in cold salted water. Roll with your hands and let sit for a few minutes. Wash and debeard the mussels. Change the water a few times to remove all sand. If any of the mussels are opened before you cook them, or remain closed after they are cooked, discard them. In a very large pot (about 16 to 20 quart pot or a large stockpot) place the crushed garlic, parsley, black pepper, olive oil, and one bottle of the wine. Add the mussels. Add about 1 to 2 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil (about 5 to 7 minutes) Cook for about another 10 to 12 minutes or until the mussels are open and tender. Make the marinara sauce in advance. Have your water boiling for the spaghetti before you put the mussels in. Cook the spaghetti, so that it is ready before the mussels are ready to come out (just by a minute or two). Use the sauce to fix the spaghetti, and save enough to refill the gravy boat 2 or 3 times. Put in a separate pot if necessary. After the spaghetti is fixed, and the mussels are done, remove about ¾ of the liquid from the mussel pot and add the remaining marinara sauce to the mussels. Mix well in a large bowl, and serve with spaghetti. Serves 12.

The kitchen utensils, pots and pans you will need to make this dish (this includes both the mussels and the sauce) include a pot with a steamer insert to cook the mussels (or a large pot that will fit a strainer inside of it), a pot to boil the spaghetti, a pot to cook the sauce, a colander to stain the spaghetti, and hold the mussels, ladles, spoons, etc:

Here are the ingredients for the mussels:

The first thing you do is place some breadcrumbs or cornmeal in the bottom of your sink (the reason for this is that the mussels will eat the crumbs and by doing so, they open and the sand that may be inside of them comes don't want to eat sandy mussels). Fill the sink with cold water and open the bags of mussels. Place the mussels in the cold water and move the water around a little bit with your hands. Let the mussels soak for awhile.

If you have two people doing this, it is so much easier - one can clean the mussels, and the other can make the sauce. At this point I would crush the garlic for both the mussels and the sauce and set it aside in two separate bowls.

Chop up the parsley for the mussels now too...First wash the parsley, then remove the thick stems, and finally chop the parsley. I find it easier to use a scissor here because the pieces don't have to be that fine.

If you are doing this alone, now is a good time to look at the sauce recipe, and start the sauce. While the sauce is simmering you can then go back and clean the mussels.

Now, you have to clean the mussels - this is called de-bearding the mussels. Today, most mussels are farm raised and they are very clean when they come to you, but if you catch them yourself of buy mussels that are not farm raised you will meet to remove the barnacles that may have clung to the shells with a mussel brush and remove the beards which are little fibrous growth inside the mussel. That stringy thing you see below is the beard.

To remove the beard, you must give it a good tug and yank it out of the mussel

Something very important to remember here: If the mussel is open in the cold water before you cook it, it is no good. Throw it away! If it remains closed after you cook it, it is no good, throw it away!

This is what I mean when I say it is open before you cook it

Here are a few more examples and you can also see the beards that were removed from the mussels as well

You want to wash the mussels at least two times until your water is clean and there is no more sand in the sink. This is a picture of the water after the first soaking - need I say more as to why you do it more than once!

At this point, get your pot that you are using for the spaghetti, fill it with hot water and add salt to it and start to bring it to a boil.

Get your pot ready to put the mussels in. After you clean the mussels, you can wither put them in a colander, or if you have the pot with the steamer basket inside, put the mussels in the basket part.

Take the pot you are going to use to steam the mussels and place the olive oil in it

Then add the Chablis

Add your water

Add the parsley and garlic

Finally, add your freshly ground black pepper

Place the steamer insert with the mussels into the pot you just prepared

If you don't see a little liquid at the bottom of the pot, you may need to add a little more water/wine/oil to the pot.

Cover the pot, and bring to a boil - this will take about 7-10 minutes. It will smell so delicious as they are cooking... Then steam them for about another 10-12 minutes stirring once or twice. They are cooked when all the mussels have opened. Remember, if they don't open, throw them away!

Your spaghetti should also be cooking now so they will be done at the same time. Have a large bowl ready for the mussels, and a large bowl ready for the spaghetti. You can put a few ladles of sauce on the bottom of the bowl for the spaghetti, place some sauce in a gravy boat (I use 2) for the table. If anyone doesn't like the mussels, set some sauce aside for them before you mix the liquid from the mussels into the gravy.

When the mussels are done, lift them out of the pot and pour them into the large bowl you had ready.

You can see how the mussels have opened

Fix your spaghetti and then, remove about three quarters of the liquid from the mussel put, pour the remaining liquid into the remaining marinara sauce

and pour the sauce over the mussels, mixing well

You can either place the spaghetti on the place and place the mussels over them or serve in two separate dishes. Place lots of empty dishes on the table for the shells. This is a very messy dinner, so you could even use paper plates/platters if you wanted to. Serve with lots of Italian bread to sop of the sauce or as we say, "Make a scapetta"

Enjoying dinner...

The meal was a success!!!

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