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Mussels in Tomato, White Wine and Anisette Broth
Don't Be Intimidated By Preparing Mussels at Home
The cold winter months is definitely the time to buy and enjoy mussels. They thrive in cold waters and can be brought fresh directly from the fishing boat to the store to your table. A lot of people are intimidating by the thought of preparing mussels at home but its not nearly as hard as you imagine. In fact, its pretty simple and quick. One of my favorite recipes is from James Peterson from his book Cooking. But, I've been told by many of my foody friends that nobody's mussels hold a candle to mine.
The Secret Ingredient
The secret ingredient in this recipe is the Pastis. Pastis is a liquor made from distilling anise seeds and licorice and is very popular in France, Italy and Spain. You should be able to find it in any liquor store but if you can't, Sambuca, Ouzo or Anisette would also work equally as well. Treat yourself to a bottle though, its worth it! In fact, it would go wonderfully as a pre-dinner cocktail at a dinner party. It's easy enough to make. Add a couple fingers of Pastis to a small glass, add some ice cubes and fill up to about 2/3 full with ice cold water. Give it a stir. It'll turn cloudy then its ready to enjoy.
Now on to the recipe!
The preparation and cooking time will run about 40 minutes, less if you chop fast. This recipe will easily feed 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as an appetizer.
Ingredients for Mussels with White Wine, Pastis and Tomato Broth
- A couple good glugs of Olive Oil
- 1 Kilo or a little over lbs. of Fresh Mussels
- 1 Large Red Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 Large Yellow Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
- 2 Medium Red Onions, coarsely chopped
- 4-5 Cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 Can of pealed whole tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 Cup White Wine (dry)
- 1/2 Cup Pastis or Anisette
- 1 Flat tbs. Sugar
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 1 Small Bunch of Fresh Basil Leaves, cut into ribbons
- 2 tbs. unsalted butter
First, assemble all of your ingredients. Once you've finished chopping and starting cooking it all goes pretty quickly. Pour the olive oil into a LARGE sauté pan, set the heat to medium and add the onions. Let them cook until they start to turn translucent. Then, add the bell peppers and sauté for another minute or two before you add the can of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, white wine and sugar. You'll want this to slowly simmer, not boil.
As soon as you've added those ingredients turn your mussels out from their package into a large sieve and set them in the sink. Blast them with lots of cold running water for about 3-4 minutes. When you've finished rinsing the mussels, give them a good shake to get rid of any excess tap water and add them to the broth you have simmering on the stove. Continue to simmer the mussels until most of them have opened. While they're simmering you'll want to give them a couple of good stirs to make sure they all have equal access to the heat at the bottom of the pan. This should only take about 4-6 minutes. Then, add the Pastis, butter and ribbons of fresh basil. Stir just enough to evenly distribute the new ingredients and taste for seasoning. If it still needs salt and pepper, then this is the time to add them. Though, I find that this is one of the few dishes that I don't add salt and pepper to because the mussels actually are holding salt water in their shells which is released into the broth when they open. Make sure to pick out and discard any mussels that didn't open, turn out into a big bowl and Enjoy!
Serve with lots of crusty bread and spoons.