Gourmet in 30 Minutes: Pasta with Mussels
Posted on February 07, 2017
Mussels are one of the most inexpensive, sustainable, quick-cooking
and often overlooked types of seafood available on the market. Because the vast
majority of mussels available in the grocery store are farm raised—cultivated
on ropes in clean waters rather than harvested from the wild—you can expect
them to be fairly clean and sand-free. Unlike wild clams, say, there is no
reason to purge them before cooking. And, because mussels and other shellfish
are routinely tested for toxin levels, there is little risk of contamination
from high concentrations of toxic algae. The major risk of illness actually
comes from dead mussels: those that were either stored improperly or kept
around too long. Those with chipped shells or shells that remain open after
tapping on them are a dead giveaway. Same with mussels that remain tightly
closed after steaming: toss them in the compost bin.
As a general rule of thumb, if the mussels are being served
alone as a main course, allow for 1 pound per person. If they are being served
as an appetizer or along with pasta, 1/2 pound per person will suffice.
Select mussels with a fresh, briny ocean smell and tightly
closed, shiny shells. Once you get home, the mussels can be stored in the
refrigerator for up to a few days before cooking. Don’t place the shellfish
directly on top of ice, even if they were displayed that way in the store.
Instead, remove the mussels from their storage bag, place them in a bowl, cover
with a damp towel and keep refrigerated. Occasionally drain any liquid that
collects at the bottom of the bowl.
In addition to being a cheap source of low-fat protein,
mussels are also a good source of Vitamins A, B and C, selenium, phosphorus,
potassium, iron and omega 3-fatty acids. Health benefits aside, they are simply
mussels for cooking, scrub or rinse them well under cold water and remove the
beards. When combined with a few aromatics, a splash of wine and a pat of
butter, steamed mussels can make a simple weeknight meal at home feel almost like
going out to a fancy bistro.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Mussels and Spinach
To clean the mussels, place them in a colander in the sink
and rinse the shells under cold, running water. Remove any beards (the scraggly
brown clump of hairs that appear between the seam of the shell) by pulling them
out firmly, using a paper towel for better grip, if necessary. Discard any
mussels with cracked shells and check any with open shells: tap gently on the
shells and throw away those that don’t slowly close back up.
8 oz. whole wheat linguine
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. cultivated mussels, such as PEI mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. lemon juice
5 oz. baby spinach
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high
heat. Add the linguine and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.
2. While the linguine cooks, in a Dutch oven, warm the olive
oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened and translucent, 2
to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, 1
minute. Add the mussels, wine, bay leaf and lemon zest, season with salt and
pepper and raise the heat to high.
3. Cover and cook 3 minutes, then stir the mussels and
continue cooking, covered, until all the mussels have opened, about 3 minutes
longer. Meanwhile, drain the linguine into a colander.
4. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the mussels to a bowl. Discard
the bay leaves and any mussels that do not open. Stir in the spinach and cook
until wilted. Off heat, stir in the butter and lemon juice and season to taste
with additional salt and pepper.
5. Return the fettuccine and mussels to the pot and toss
until the noodles are well coated in sauce and the mussels are evenly
distributed. Serve immediately.
Serves 3 to 4.
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