Happy Labor Day!
I spent the majority of my weekend hanging out with two of my favorite people – my mama and stepdad, who we call “Big” to differentiate between him and my little brother as they coincidentally share the same name. After feasting on my mom’s amazing big-as-your-head burgers on Friday night, we were feeling like something a little lighter for dinner on Saturday. The stars aligned and my mom happened to flip to a cooking show on a local station called Secrets of a Chef by Hubert Keller.
I hadn’t heard of Chef Keller before, but I definitely bookmarked his site and will be going back for recipe inspiration as soon as possible. On this particular rainy Saturday afternoon, Hubert was whipping up a batch of mussels in basil white wine sauce, and we knew what we had to do for dinner.
Oh my goodness.
However good we thought these mussels were going to be – and we had sky-high expectations! – they were about a billion times better. And really easy to make, too!
Seafood can be a bit intimidating for me and I had never made mussels before, but this was a breeze and I can’t wait to make it again… though I’m sure I won’t be over my squeamishness at the fact that they’re alive when you get them. (The seafood monger at Mariano’s informed me that all I had to do was knock on them to make sure they were alive – they squish their shells shut just a little bit tighter. I knocked on practically every shell. Thanks, sir!)
We doubled the recipe for the sauce because we had a TON of mussels (hey, they were our whole dinner, don’t judge!) and the only change we made was to omit the tomatoes… but the recipe only calls for a whopping 6 cherry tomatoes, so I can’t imagine that really made much of a difference.
Make sure you get lots of French bread to sop up as much of the sauce as possible… it manages to taste both rich and fresh at the same time between the cream and the fresh basil, and Big may or may not have caught me slurping the last bit of mine straight from the bowl.
*I somehow managed to accidentally delete all of my own pictures of this, but this picture is almost exactly how they looked, except I had about three times this many!
Mussels in Basil White Wine Sauce
(Yields: 4 servings)
• 3 ounces fresh basil leaves
• 1 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 shallots, peeled & finely chopped
• 7 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 1/3 cup clam juice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 30 Mediterranean mussels
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 slices country bread, toasted
TO MAKE THE BASIL OIL:
Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Lower the basil leaves into the water, and boil for 30 seconds.
With a slotted spoon, remove the basil from the boiling water and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Immediately remove the basil from the ice water and pat dry on paper towels.
Transfer the basil into a blender. Add the olive oil, and blend until basil is very finely chopped and oil is bright green. Remove from blender and set aside.
TO MAKE THE MUSSELS:
In a 12″ skillet, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and sauté just until translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the white wine to the pan and let it come to a boil.
Add the clam juice, and season with salt and pepper.
Gently add the mussels, cover, and let cook 1 to 1 ½ minutes, or until mussels have fully opened.
Once the mussels are cooked, remove them from the liquid with a slotted spoon and cover with foil.
Finish the sauce by adding the cream and lemon juice to the boiling wine mixture. Whisk until combined and let mixture boil for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Add 3 tablespoons of the basil oil and stir until combined.
Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes.
Uncover the mussels and gently spoon them into the serving dish and pour sauce on top. Serve with toasted country bread.
Secrets of a Chef:
• Check the mussels when they are raw to make sure that they are closed, or that they close on their own if you tap them. If any are open and will not close on their own, discard them because they are no longer alive.
• Chef Keller likes to serve this in cast iron dishes to keep it hot, or he suggests that it is served straight out of the pot in the middle of the table
• The extra basil oil can be refrigerated and used later. It is great for any seafood dish.