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Recipe: Mussels Calabrian

Whilst attending a Southern Italian cooking class at Carrick, I was introduced to a mussel recipe of Southern Italian origin by Antonio Ruggerino, chef and owner of Verde Restaurant+Bar.

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.

[Begin 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.

[End Scenario]

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Debeard mussels with fingers or clean set of pliers, and scrub down to remove any muck adhered to the shells. Place to one side.
  2. Roughly dice up the tomatoes, celery & lemon. Break down the parsley, stalks and all, into short lengths. Mince the garlic.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Seasoning shouldn’t be required as the mussels are salt-water creatures. However, once mussels have finished cooking, season broth to taste if necessary.

Serve

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)

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{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Moya August 10, 2010, 10:29 am

    Or you could buy a big bag of pot ready mussels and ease into this gorgeous meal relatively stress free! That’s what I’m gonna do!

    • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:20 pm

      That’d be too easy… :)

      Only wish the mussels I bought were like that. Would have halved the total cooking time!

  • angie August 10, 2010, 11:29 am

    Love the scenario ;)
    Oh they were just sooo good, I could have done with a HUGE pot of these that night, or any night really considering how easy it is.

    • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:22 pm

      Definitely! Certainly will be looking into ways to mix up the flavours, especially when mussel season hits.

  • Ellie (Almost Bourdain) August 10, 2010, 2:15 pm

    What an easy and delicious recipe. It’s a keeper!

  • Steph@LittlePotBelly August 10, 2010, 5:30 pm

    You crack me up!! If only I have fresh mussels just lying around. Good job on this one pot wonder.

    • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:26 pm

      Well, when you do have some lying around… :)

  • mademoiselle délicieuse August 10, 2010, 7:15 pm

    Also a great meal to share with friends whom you don’t mind seeing you get your hands dirty by eating these!

    • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:27 pm

      Aside from the first mussel, hands don’t really need to get all that dirty.

      Well, unless you go without the fork for the salad…

      • Jude April 7, 2011, 5:35 pm

        Lovely sounding recipe, will be trying it tonight – with mussels I have just lying around (as if…)!

        • Simon April 8, 2011, 1:51 am

          Hi Jude! Thanks for leaving a comment.

          Well, if you do find yourself with mussels “just lying around”, picked them up after work as suggested in the hypothetical scenario, or by whatever other means you see fit in order to be able to obtain some, and you’re inclined to try out this recipe, I hope that you find it to your liking.

          If not, as suggested, you can always mix it up to suit your tastes as you see fit :)

  • Simon Food Favourites August 10, 2010, 9:26 pm

    thanks for sharing the recipe. will keep a record of this one for sure. although for such a quick and easy recipe it seemed to be a very long blog post ;-)

    • Simon August 10, 2010, 11:32 pm

      Do you think this recipe has the calibre to become a Simon Food Favourite? ;-)

  • Iron Chef Shellie August 12, 2010, 10:41 am

    Sounds easy enough…. that pouring the glass of wine part… that’s essential!

  • Trissa August 14, 2010, 4:17 pm

    You can also buy packaged mussels and save yourself the trouble of scrubbing the mussels too! Anyway – great dish – I’ll have to try the asian version that you mentioned – with a steaming bowl of rice or noodles – fantastic.

  • Mary August 18, 2010, 12:38 am

    WOW! This sounds and looks delicious! ::Bookmarked!::

    Just found your blog and so happy I did!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  • Sara @ Belly Rumbles August 18, 2010, 3:36 pm

    I love muscles and these ones are just awesome. I was quite surprised how good they were when we made them at the cooking class.

  • Forager @ The Gourmet Forager August 18, 2010, 4:48 pm

    Love mussels and love the simplicity of this recipe – and all in 10 mintues! Impressive for such a yummy result. Making dishes like this always remind me how ripped off I feel when we pay for $20 pots of mussels in restaurants!

  • Anita August 25, 2010, 10:20 pm

    Love the story :) When I get tired and don’t want to cook I turn to my handy freezer where I’ve hopefully frozen something yummy. Your meal looks a lot fresher than mine though :)

  • thang @ noodlies August 29, 2010, 3:30 pm

    hey simon.. haven’t seen a new post from you in a while.. been busy?

    • Simon September 2, 2010, 12:38 am

      Very much so. A lot’s been going on lately.

      Will look to post soon! :)

  • Nene July 15, 2011, 1:00 pm

    Thanks Simon – great recipe and a hoot of a setup. You did mention at some stage to grab some cream and the photos do seem to show some cream in the sauce – but I can’t see it in the ingredients list or in the method. I reckon some cream would bring it up a treat….??

    • Simon July 23, 2011, 6:13 am

      lol! The cream I was referring to in the post was cold sore cream. Apologies for the confusion, though the addition of cream to the recipe probably wouldn’t be a bad way to vary it.

      Regular cream from cows, not cold sore cream! :)

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment,

  • Vivian - vxdollface April 5, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Sounds so easy and delicious! hehe when I read up to putting your hands in the stock pot to squeeze the ingredients I was like wtf isn’t it hot, until I read on.. :)

    • Simon April 5, 2012, 4:03 pm

      lol! Hopefully you’ll read all the steps when you attempt the recipe :)

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