Growing up, I was willing to try pretty much anything, especially when it came to seafood.
My dad and I could have eaten some type of seafood everyday, and whatever he was having, I was having. I remember sitting down with him to share a lobster when I was about 8, just because I wanted to try it. I ate shrimp by the handful and steamers by the bucketload. If it was seafood, I was IN.
So as an adult at a restaurant, I'm instantly drawn to the seafood section of the menu. At a particular Italian eatery, my husband and I love a dish of mussels and broth. We end up eating it very quick and using our bread to soak up the buttery broth every single time.
But since we can't afford to go out to eat every night, I had to figure out a way to make the dish at home. And since mussels, while delicious, aren't all that filling as a dinner meal, I tossed in some shrimp. Next time I'd also like to add some scallops; I think they'd add even more flavor to the dish.
You can serve the broth separate like I did here, or pour it over the shellfish. I've done it both ways, but separated it here to show you what it should look like. I highly recommend serving this with some bread -- once you try the broth, you won't leave a single drop in the bowl.
Gamberi e mitili in brodo del vino (Shrimp and mussels in wine broth)
2 pounds of live mussels (approximately 75 shells), scrubbed, debearded*
1 pound of peeled, deveined raw shrimp
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons garlic*
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
large sautee pan with lid
With sautee pan on medium heat, melt butter, then add lemon juice, salt, pepper and wine (carefully). Toss in onion and cook until translucent. Add half of the garlic to the broth and watch to make sure it doesn't burn. Cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
Toss mussels into pan, distributing as evenly as possible around the pan. Spoon remaining garlic and olive oil over shells and cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
Remove lid and toss shrimp on top of mussels, cover. Cook for additional 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat.
Spoon shrimp and mussels onto large platter.
Before serving, ensure all shells have opened -- discard mussels that remain closed. Top with broth from pan or serve with broth on the side (you can add any other flavors you like -- parsley, red pepper flakes, basil, etc., at this time).
Mussels -- At our supermarket, you can buy a 2 lb. bundle of mussels in the seafood department. Though it won't look like it at first, this is about 75 mussels.
The tricky thing about mussels, and the reason many people don't cook with them, is that they do require a fair bit of preparation. When you unbundle them, you have to scrub them, as they accumulate a fair amount of dirt/sand on their shells. Then, and if you're squeamish, look away -- you have to "de-beard" them. What's a beard you ask? It's a group of fibers the mussel has used to hold on to rocks in the ocean.
You have to grip the beard and yank it out of the shell. The creepy thing (for some, I'm past it!), is that as the mussel is live, you may feel it... "tug" back a little. Certainly, once you begin to pull the beard and let go, you will see a portion disappear back into the shell. In any event, you want to remove this beard, or as much of it as you can, because what you don't clean off the shells and out of them is going to end up in your mouth.
The other tidbit about mussels... you have to quite literally trust your gut. The LAST thing you want to eat is bad shellfish, and so you have to apply the open-closed theory of discarding the "bad" ones -- if you see shells OPEN before you cook the mussels, throw them out. If any remain CLOSED after you cook them, throw them out. If any shells have chunks mussing or exposed mussel showing, throw them out. Trust me on this one -- better safe than sorry!
Garlic -- Just to restate what I've said in almost every recipe I've made using garlic, you can feel free to use jarred or fresh garlic. I prefer to use the jarred as it keeps longer, I don't have to cut it up, and it seems to be more flavorful. If you use the jarred garlic, use 3 tablespoons. If you use fresh garlic, use 4-5 cloves, depending on their size.