From Dish Gwen:
Every August my saucy little family goes up to the coast of Maine for a week or two, and aside from swimming and boating and generally enjoying the outdoors, we do a lot of cooking and eating. Maine is well known for its lobsters, and we always have a lobster dinner when we’re there, but as delicious as lobsters are, they’re not terribly fun to cook. My favorite dish to make when we’re in Maine is mussels. Myself and a couple of friends will scramble out onto some rocks at low tide and dig around in the seaweed and pick mussels directly out of the salty water. Then we bring them home, clean them, and cook them up. Yum.
Cleaning Fresh Mussels
There’s one great thing about store-bought mussels, and that’s the fact that they’ve already been cleaned. Mussels have barnacles and beards, and they’re not particularly fun to clean, but it’s totally worth it because they’re delicious. There are two main steps in cleaning them:
1. De-beard them. The “beard” is the hairy-looking part that sticks out of the side of the mussel’s shell, and it needs to be pulled off. Sometimes the beards are easy to yank off, but occasionally you’ll get a stubborn one and in that case you should pinch the beards off using a damp dish towel to improve your grip.
2. Scrape of the barnacles. Barnacles are little white crustaceans that stick to the shells of the mussels, and you don’t want them to end up in your meal so you have to scrape them off. Take a dull butter knife and scrape them while holding the mussel under the water. The little buggers pop right off.
Ok, so once your mussels are clean you can just give them a rinse with fresh water and then get on with the show.
- 50-75 mussels, cleaned and rinsed
- 2 red or green peppers, chopped
- 3 large tomatoes, chopped and de-seeded
- 1 large zucchini, chopped into ½ inch pieces
- ½ head of garlic, minced
- ½ bottle dry white wine
- 2 table spoons olive oil
- 1 lb thin spaghetti
Get your spaghetti cooking, and once it’s done al-dente, rinse it and prepare it with light salt and olive oil. In a large pot, simmer the olive oil on medium-high, and toss in the garlic and zucchini with about a teaspoon of salt. Once they’re lightly browned, add the peppers and tomatoes, and keep simmering until they too begin to brown and stick to the pan. Add the wine and stir, making sure that all the brown glaze from the vegetables comes loose into the liquid.
Simmer everything for about two minutes until the contents are sizzling and steaming, then drop the mussels into the pot and cover. Steam the mussels until the shells open (should take 10-15 mins), and mix the mussels and veggies together once or twice with a large spoon, gently churning everything together with broad strokes so you don’t break any of the shells.
Place the spaghetti into a large bowl and then pour out the mussels, veggies, and all the broth on top. Serve with some crusty bread and butter for sopping up that broth, and don’t forget to put out bowls for the empty shells. Serves 4 to 5 hungry beach-goers.