Even cooks who serve fish as part of their regular dinner rotation sometimes forget how quick, easy, and satisfying shellfish can be. Mussels, especially, are best prepared simply with a fragrant broth, aromatics, and a loaf of fresh, crusty bread for sopping up the broth. It doesn't get any simpler than that.
2 medium leeks
3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
14.5-oz. can petite-diced tomatoes
2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 lb. mussels, scrubbed well
1 loaf crusty artisan-style bread, sliced
Tip:Clean mussels just before cooking by scrubbing them well under cold water. Don’t soak mussels. Pull off and discard any fibrous “beards” attached to any of the mussels. While scrubbing, try sliding the shells apart. If the mussel is dead or full of mud it will slide open and should be discarded. Also discard mussels with gaping shells that don’t close as they warm up or when squeezed or poked.
Trim the dark-green leaves and root ends from the leeks. Split the leeks lengthwise and rinse them well under cold running water. Slice them crosswise into about 1/2-inch-thick half-moons.
In a large, heavy pot, cook the leeks, garlic, and bay leaf in the oil over medium heat, stirring often, until the leeks begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, tarragon, and pepper flakes and simmer to meld the flavors for 5 minutes. (This mixture can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead and left out at room temperature.)
When you’re ready to cook the mussels, return the leek mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the mussels, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open, 3 to 8 minutes. Spoon the mussels, broth, and vegetables into large bowls and serve with the bread for dipping in the broth.
Start the meal off with a Spinach & Basil Salad with Tomatoes, Candied Walnuts & Warm Bacon Dressing.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on four servings without bread;
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips