Capellini with Mussels and Jt’s “Américaine”

One of the great sauces for lobster and crayfish is the shellfish sauce called either Américaine or Armoriaine. Which name to use is a debate in France as long and complex as a local tax issue. Let’s settle on the position that it comes not from America, but Armorica (Brittany), and just because it has tomatoes in it does not mean it is really sauce Provençale, another red herring in the whole debate. The point of the sauce is the flavor of the shells of lobster, or prawns or crab or whatever shellfish you use.

If you have shellfish essence, you do not need the step in the recipe with the shells.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces capellini
  • 3 pounds mussels, washed, bearded
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound lobster or prawn shells, crushed (or 2 cups shellfish essence)
  • 4 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped celery
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup rich fish-shellfish stock
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut in ½-inch cubes, kept cold
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a chemically nonreactive 3-quart pot. Add the shells and stir around in the hot oil for 10 minutes. You can flame the shells with 2 tablespoons of brandy if you want some fun, but it is not necessary.

Remove the shells and put them in a bowl and set aside. Add the onion, celery, tarragon, garlic, and ¼ cup water to the pot. Cover and sweat 10 minutes. Do not brown. Add the mussels, white wine, and fish stock, cover, and cook over high heat until the mussels open, about 5 minutes, shaking the pan hard a couple of times. Remove the mussels and let them cool.

Put the tomatoes and lobster or prawn shells in the pot and simmer the liquid uncovered for 20 minutes. While the liquid is simmering, take the mussels out of their shells and discard the shells.

Strain the simmering stock through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth, discard all the debris, and reduce over medium heat for 15 minutes, skimming off any scum. The sauce can be made in advance up to this point.

Bring the sauce to a simmer, and whisk in the butter, cream, and cayenne. Season, and keep warm in a double boiler, but do not let it boil.

Add the mussels to the sauce for about 2 minutes, or until they are heated through, heating the sauce a little more if necessary, but do not overheat the mussels.

Meanwhile, cook the capellini in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain, put in a bowl, add the olive oil and half the sauce (but not the mussels), and mix gently together.

Serve the pasta immediately on warm plates and pour the rest of the sauce and the mussels over the pasta. Let your guests see and savor the aromas of this whole serving process.

Loading
Loading
Loading