We like mussels at our house.... a budget-conscious and delicious buy from Monterey Fish. Plus the quick prep makes for an easy dinner. At home in California, foraging for Mussels is a no-no. Quarantine signs warn of contamination and unhealthy waters.
For the first time in my life, we got to harvest our own mussels off the shore! We were recently in Golden Bay, New Zealand - tucked into the lightly populated shores on the gorgeous South Island, the waters are clean and harvesting seafood from the beaches is just fine.
We heard that the tides were low at ten am, so off we set with a few buckets in hand. Within 15 minutes we had plenty of mussels to cook up.
In trying to keep our meal as simple and local as possible, we threw together an easy spaghetti with mussels. We borrowed a few spices from our neighbor, harvested some herbs from the garden there, then walked to the nearby market and bought some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, local onions, butter, olive oil, sea salt, and pasta.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds mussels
- 1 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- pinch of red pepper flakes or chili powder
- 1/4 cup cream
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
- fresh ground pepper
- sea salt
- handful of chopped parsley and/or parsley blossoms if available
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Clean and de-beard mussels. (Our harvested mussels took a lot more prep than the ones we buy at Monterey Fish. Paul scrubbed a multitude of barnacles from the shells. He gave the mussels numerous baths in fresh water. Then he and Lilah removed the beards.)
Start to heat a large stock pot of water for cooking pasta.
Warm 4-6 low soup bowls.
Get another large pot ready in which to cook the mussels. Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, chili, and fennel seeds. Cook for just a few minutes until garlic is tender.
(Put pasta on to cook. Strain when done and put equal servings into 4-6 warmed low/soup bowls.)
Add white wine to the mussel pot and simmer for about 6 -8 minutes until reduced by half.
Add mussels and thyme sprigs to the pot. Cover. Steam for about 5 minutes until mussels have opened. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon.
Put an equal amount of mussels on top of each serving of pasta.
Quickly strain mussel cooking liquid. Combine 1 cup of cooking liquid with 1/4 cup of warm heavy cream. ( Save the extra cooking liquid as stock for your next risotto or seafood stew.) Whisk cream to blend and add salt and pepper to taste. (Note that freshly harvested mussels can be quite salty and don’t need much/if any added salt.)
Distribute the sauce evenly over each bowl of pasta and mussels. Generously sprinkle fresh herbs/blossoms and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Eat and enjoy!
serves 4 as main/ 6 as appetizer
Usually we have a crab fest for Christmas dinner, though I think a big bowl of steaming mussels could be a festive holiday supper!