Sunday, April 19, 2009

Garlicky Steamed Mussels and Clams

For some reason, I had a craving for mussels and clams, steamed open in a garlicky wine sauce. Actually, I know why I had a craving -- I wanted to try out sauteing and steaming on my new addiction, the Big Green Egg, which is an amazing charcoal grill/smoker that also acts as a convection oven and hearth oven.

I was also making pizza margherita, regular cheese pizza, and a big Caesar salad, and it all seemed to go well together.

Because of timing issues, I ended up starting the mussels and clams on the stove inside and then moving them to the Big Green Egg for the last final minutes. When I get another chance, I'll do them on the grill and put an addendum here on how it goes, as I really want to see how smoke affects the taste of the mussels and clams.

One doesn't really need a recipe for steaming clams or mussels. It's really easy: put in a pot with a little liquid and steam.

Use great ingredients as there aren't many: shellfish bought from a trusted purveyor, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomato, a lovely olive oil and/or butter, a dry white wine you wouldn't mind drinking, and lemon for serving.

My main recommendation for steaming the mussels and clams is to not put too much liquid into the pot. The mussels and clams will exude their nectar during steaming and you wouldn't want to dilute that, would you? For a dutch oven or large pot, you only need enough liquid to start the steaming process. It's probably only 1/2 an inch from the bottom, or a cup or two of liquid. Definitely don't fill the pot more than a quarter of the way up from the bottom.

Feeds 3-4

3 lbs. mussels and/or clams
1 large shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil (and/or butter)
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
A dry white wine like Chardonnay (the stuff you would drink, not cooking wine)
Red pepper flakes
Fresh parsley, minced
Lemon wedges and/or bowls of melted butter

When you get the shellfish home, immediately open the plastic bag they come in so they can breathe and won't suffocate. Put them in the fridge if you're not going to use them in the next few hours.

Clean shellfish by scrubbing them with a vegetable brush in a bowl of water or under running water. Debeard mussels by pulling off the "beard" which looks like a small bunch of black fibrous threads. Throw out any shellfish with chipped or broken shells and ones that have expired; you'll know they're dead by doing this: if the shells are open, push them closed; if the shellfish responds and closes, it's alive. If it does nothing, it's likely dead. It's okay if they're a little teeny bit open, but more than a 1/2 inch means they're definitely expired).

Put in clean water with a lot of black pepper and let sit for 30 minutes. Apparently, this helps the clams and mussels spit out any sand (this is really for the clams, as cultivated mussels are usually clean).

When ready to cook, rinse off the shellfish and set aside. Heat over medium heat a dutch oven, paella pan, or pot big enough to hold the shellfish and has a lid.

When the pot/pan is hot, add some olive oil and/or butter (enough to be able to saute the garlic and shallots at minimum, e.g. a tablespoon; you can add a lot more oil if you want for flavor) and then the garlic and shallots. Add a couple sprinkles of the red pepper flakes and a little salt. Saute the garlic and shallots for a minute or two until translucent (don't burn them; if they're browning very quickly, turn down the heat). Add the tomatoes, stir them around, and add the wine and let simmer for a minute.

Add mussels and clams, cover the pot, and cook over medium-high. Check the pot every 1 1/2 minutes or so, turning the shellfish when you check them, and then putting the lid back on. When the mussels and/or clams are open, it's done! This can happen pretty quickly, so don't overcook them. Turning the mussels and clams during the process helps them open evenly. Top with parsley and mix the parsley in. Taste broth, and if necessary, adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or red pepper flakes.

Put the shellfish in a bowl, and distribute the juice in smaller bowls (if there's four people, you just need two bowls). Also have another empty bowl on the table for the empty shells. You can have bowls of melted butter too if you want, and lemon wedges. People can get the mussels or clams out of their shells, dip them in the broth and/or dip them in butter, and/or squirt them with butter. Serve with crusty bread and white wine. Delicious!

Use any leftover shellfish and broth to make a pasta dish like mussels fra diavolo or a chowder.


Culinary Cory said...

I'm totally going to try these this weekend. I love mussels and haven't had them in awhile. Yum!

Generic Viagra said...

To many reason to write this blog, I'll do them on the grill and put an addendum here on how it goes, as I really want to see how different exist about it.

Anonymous said...

This was absolutely amazing! I let the wine and tomatoes simmer for a few more minutes until it reduced a bit. Served it with crusty bread and a simple mixed green salad. My husband said he can't wait to eat this again!