Friday, November 13, 2015

Mussels Marinara

     Mussels Marinara! 
     In places where fresh mussels are not available, there are many people that have never heard of today's recipe.  At small towns located in midwest farm communities, Mussels Marinara might as well be the name of an Italian professional wrestler starring in match that is broadcast on a Saturday morning local television channel!  
     All up and down the American eastern seaboard, nearly everybody is familiar with Mussels Marinara.  Italian restaurants located near the east coast offer plenty of seafood on the menu.  Fresh Atlantic Blue Mussels are available year round and the price is reasonable.  From New England down to Virginia, Mussels Marinara is offered at local taverns, diners, fine dining restaurants and of course, nearly every Italian restaurant.
     Mussels Marinara is a popular antipasti because there is plenty of great flavor.  Even an extra large portion of Mussels Marinara is not too filling, so this appetizer will still leave plenty of room for pasta, entrée and dessert courses when dining out.
     Part of the Italian approach to creating a romantic fine dining experience is to offer food items that are meant to be shared by 2 guests.  Usually the items shared by couples are antipasti or desserts.  Opening and ending a multi course meal with shared items inspires intimate conversation and romance.   A platter of Mussels Marinara for two will certainly get the ball rolling!

     Blue Mussels must be clean and fresh for today's recipe.  Fresh Blue Mussels are easy to find at food markets along the Northeast Coast, but the farther one is from the shore, the less likely fresh mussels will be found.
     If no fresh Blue Mussels are available, then frozen mussels are the next best choice.  There are a few frozen mussel products to choose from.
     Farm raised Green Mussels are usually pre-cooked and frozen on the half shell.  Green Mussels are not well suited for making Mussels Marinara.
     The best choice is Cryovac packages of frozen Blue Mussels.  The vacuum packaging seals in the fresh flavor, while pinching each shell shut.  Cryovac packaged frozen Blue Mussels do take a little longer to open when they are cooked and some shells will not fully open.  Even so, Cryovac packaged frozen Blue Mussels are close enough to being fresh, that they are better than having no mussels at all.
     Marinara Sauce:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Classic Marinara Sauce

     Mozzarella & Arugula Bread: 
     This is an optional garnish for 1 mussels marinara appetizer!  This garnish should be prepared before cooking the mussels marinara.
     Garlic Bread or fresh baked Italian Bread is usually served with mussels marinara.  Baked bread with an Italian cheese melted on top actually is an old fashioned Italian antipasti.  Often the cheese bread is served on its own as Bruschetta with a tomato basil topping.  Cheese Bread also is nice for garnishing mussels marinara.      
     Step 1:  Cut 1 thick slice of Italian bread and brush it with olive oil.
     Place the bread on a baking pan.
     Lightly toast the bread in a 325ºF oven.
     Step 2:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place a few thin slices of fresh mozzarella on the toasted bread.
     Place a couple of arugula leaves on top of the cheese.
     Lightly brush the arugula with olive oil.
     Step 3:  Return the bread pan to the oven.
     Bake till the mozzarella softens and the arugula wilts.  (Do not brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!)
     Keep the cheese bread warm on a stove top.

     Mussels Marinara: 
     This recipe yields 1 large portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Clean and de-beard about 25 Blue Mussels.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
     Add the prepared mussels.
     Briefly sauté till the shells start to heat and open.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of Marinara Sauce.
     *Add just enough marinara sauce to coat the mussels with flavor.  Mussels Marinara should not look too saucy!
     Step 5:  Cover the pan with a lid.
     Let the mussels steam in the sauce, till the shells open.  (It only takes 2 to 3 minutes for fresh mussel shells to open.)
     Step 6:  Remove the lid.
     Discard any mussels that do not open and discard any broken shells.
     Step 7:  Rapidly simmer and reduce, till most of the excess liquid evaporates.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Mussels Marinara with Mozzarella & Arugula Bread Garnish:  
     Place the Mozzarella & Arugula Bread garnish on the center of the plate.
     Arrange the mussels on a plate so they look nice.
     Spoon the Marinara Sauce and mussel juices from the pan over the mussels.
     Bread is great for soaking up the extra Marinara Sauce and juices from the mussels.  Warm Italian cheese bread adds a nice touch!   

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