Mussels in Cataplana

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If you don’t have a cataplana (the cooking vessel in the photograph), which I don’t expect anyone to have, just use a covered saucepan. The method of cooking used here is like the classic moules à la marinière, with white wine, shallots, herbs, and butter, still one of the best ways to cook mussels. Another way saw the light of invention and day recently at Stars, when a line cook, drawing on the moules tradition and on saffron with mussels, but wanting something new and reflecting current interest in Indian food, the Far East, and Mexico, made curried creamed mussels with a cilantro pesto drizzled over the top. It was fantastic. This recipe, however, is much less rich and complicated. The mussels cook quickly, so the onions and chilies must be sliced paper thin. Mussels vary in size, so I recommend twelve to fifteen per person.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds mussels
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, very thinly sliced
  • 3 Anaheim chilies, stemmed, seeded, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato concasse
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 2 bay leaves

Method

Beard and scrub the mussels.

If you are using a saucepan with a lid, combine all the ingredients except the mussels in the pan and cook covered over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the mussels and cover the pot tightly. Cook over high heat, shaking the pot every 30 seconds, until all the mussels open, about 5 minutes. If 1 or 2 mussels are reluctant to open, don’t overcook the others waiting for those 2 to cook—just pry them open with a knife. Check to see if the broth needs salt and serve.

If you are using a cataplana, put all the ingredients in and clamp down the lid. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes, shaking the cataplana every 30 seconds. Open carefully, check for seasoning, and serve.

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