The recipe is so quick & effortless to prepare, and yet, tasted so nice that it almost beggars belief.
This is a great recipe for quick entree, or if you want something a little fancy during the week when there isn’t a lot of time for cooking available.
Before we get to that though, imagine if you will the following scenario.
You arrive home from work, wound up with pent up stress from the day’s stupidities. You feel you deserve something nice but you can’t be bothered spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Perhaps you happen to have a dozen or so fresh mussels left over from the weekend, or have picked some up on the way home.
You gather a few ingredients together. Nothing fancy.
Half a tomato and a slice off the side of a lemon, both of which are diced roughly. Grab a sprig of parsley, breaking it down into shorter lengths, stalks and all. Mince up a clove of garlic. All of that gets thrown into a small pot.
Pour a glass of white wine for yourself. Since you feel the need to indulge a little to help unwind, you select a decent white from the stash. Pour a glass for yourself and add a splash into the pot for good measure.
Follow up with a dose of your best extra virgin olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper.
Your hand goes into the pot, squeezing every last drop of juice and essential oils out of the ingredients to form a stock. Between the wine and the pulverisation of the ingredients, the pent up stress starts to surface.
With the stock done, you grab the mussels and head to the sink. Hands are rinsed of oils and juices. With a clean set of pliers, you set your sites on the mussels.
The beards are wrenched away with some force; the shells are scrubbed vigorously under running water, all the while muttering curses.
Stupid… Son of a… Mother…
You may even project the annoyances of your day onto the mussels. Imagining that you’re using the pliers to tear off the annoying bum fluff that arrogant bastard thinks is fashionable, or scrubbing the cold sore crusted sneer off the face of that rude tramp. Get some cream!
The mussels, once cleaned, are unceremoniously dumped into the pot, lid on, and the heat set to hell-raiser high.
With a bout of therapeutic aggression over with, you ease into a relaxed state. Wine is slowly slipped as the mussels steam away; their lips gape open in a silent cry for help. A futile effort, as all that awaits them is their pending demise deliciousness.
A quick, simple salad is tossed together, and a few slices of bread are gathered as you wait.
After about a couple of minutes, the mussels are done. The stock’s volume has increased with the briny fluids of the mussels, contributing their wonderful flavour.
Total prep and cooking time: approx. 10 minutes.
You could go through the effort of plating up the mussels, but really, why bother? It’ll just create extra dishes to wash and there isn’t anyone around that you need to impress.
Mussels straight from the pot. Salad out of the mixing bowl. Bread for soaking up the juice. Perhaps a top up of the wine. Otherwise, you’re pretty much done.
There’s no real need to reach for any utensils. The mussel shells take care of that themselves. Perfect for scraping away the mussel meat, and scooping up the light, fragrant broth.
Ok, maybe a fork for the salad. Sure, there’s no one to impress but that doesn’t mean you should do away with all manners.
Sooner than you could have thought possible, you sitting down to wonderful light, healthy dinner with the stresses of the day all but melted away.
There isn’t even the looming stress of the post dinner clean up. If you played your cards right, there won’t be all that much to wash up.
Ok, when it comes time to preparing this meal yourself, your specific circumstances may differ. However, hopefully this scenario illustrates how quick and easy this dish can be.
Several minutes prep, a couple of minutes cooking time and you’re done. You could conceivably spend less than 30 mins on the whole process. From prep, to eating, to post-meal clean up.
With such a simple recipe, the potential for adding your own creative touches are nigh on endless.
Use a little butter instead of the oil, added right at the end monter au beurre, for some richness. Fry up some bacon in the pan at the beginning and omit the olive oil once more to add a smoky, meaty quality. Add some additional herbs such as dill; or lemongrass & coriander for an Asian touch.
Feeling hungry? No worries. You can easily double the amount of mussels without changing the amount of underlying ingredients. I found that the end result still tastes great!
Whichever way you decide to go with this dish, use the best, freshest ingredients you have. Especially with the wine.
It’s amazing how stark the difference is between a nice light white wine vs. say, a cheap bottle of supermarket sherry that may be the only thing lying around because you forgot to buy some white on the way home.
You know, just saying.
Hope you enjoy this recipe!
Mussels Calabrian (Serves 1)
Adapted from a recipe by Chef Antonio Riggerino from Verde Restaurant+Bar, a Southern Italian restaurant located in East Sydney.
Total time: approx. 10 minutes
- Mussels, approx. 12 for entree; 24 for main.
- 1/2 ripe tomato
- 2 Tbsp diced celery
- 1/4 medium lemon
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1-2 Tbsp white wine
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Black pepper to taste
- Debeard mussels with fingers or clean set of pliers, and scrub down to remove any muck adhered to the shells. Place to one side.
- Further reading on mussel preparation & storage.
- Roughly dice up the tomatoes, celery & lemon. Break down the parsley, stalks and all, into short lengths. Mince the garlic.
- Add all of the above ingredients into a small pot, along with approx. 1 Tbsp each of white wine and extra virgin olive oil, and pepper to taste.
- Use the best tasting wine and olive oil you have available, as it will greatly impact the final result.
- Roughly squeeze the ingredients with your hand in the pot to extract all the juices & essential oils.
- There should be at least 3mm of liquid at the bottom of the pot as there needs to be enough liquid to steam the mussels. Add a little extra white wine, if necessary.
- Place the cleaned mussels into the pot and cook on high with the lid on. Once the mussels open, cook for another 30 sec to 1 minute.
- The cooking time for an entree sized portion is around 2 minutes.
- Seasoning shouldn’t be required as the mussels are salt-water creatures. However, once mussels have finished cooking, season broth to taste if necessary.
Plate and serve with thick slices of bread to mop up all the flavourful broth. Alternately, serve straight out of the pot for a more rustic approach.
Broth can be strained, if necessary. The ingredients have given their all and would likely not be consumed, especially the lemon rinds!
Download this recipe – Mussels Calabrian (PDF)