Mussels are such a satisfactory bivalve – delicious, beautiful, versatile and inexpensive – and this is a great time of year to eat them. Serve this mussel supper with a green salad and plenty of good crusty peasant bread for mopping up the sauce. Creamy, custardy grapenuts pudding is an ideal finish.
I originally developed this recipe for my New England Cookbook (Harvard Common Press, 1999), but have since adapted and streamlined it somewhat. The sauce gets its delightfully salty intensity from a little hit of anchovies.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
3 pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded if necessary
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Thin slices of lemon and lime for garnish
In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil. Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and anchovies and cook, mashing the anchovies until they dissolve, for 2 minutes. Stir in lemon and lime zest and juice and the pepper flakes. (This base can be made a day or so ahead and refrigerated or frozen.)
In a large pot, combine mussels and wine. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, covered, until the mussels open, 4 to 10 minutes, depending on size. Remove mussels from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving bowl.
Meanwhile, reheat the citrus sauce base in a saucepan. Carefully pour the mussel broth into the citrus mixture, leaving behind the last third or so of the liquid lest it contain any grit. Pour this sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with parsley, garnish with lemon and lime slices, and serve.
COLE FARMS GRAPENUTS PUDDING
Cole Farms is a sprawling establishment with homey, varnished wood booths, friendly waitresses, and a big contingent of relaxed local guys who sit at the counter dispensing Down East quips and folk wisdom. Located in the town of Gray, halfway between Portland and Lewiston, Cole Farms serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and draws loyal customers from the entire area. This is an adaptation of their grapenuts custard pudding, which is a scrumptious Maine classic.
1 cup sugar
3 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract (see Note)
1/3 cup grapenuts cereal
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with sugar until blended. Gently whisk in the milk, salt and vanilla.
Sprinkle the grapenuts cereal evenly over the bottom of a shallow, 2-quart baking dish. Pour the custard mixture over the grapenuts. Place baking dish into a larger baking pan and fill the larger pan with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. Carefully place the pan into the oven. (Or fill both pans while on the oven rack.) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a small knife inserted about two-thirds of the way to the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature or chilled, topped with whipped cream if desired.
Note: The flavor of this pudding depends on the quality of the vanilla. Be sure to use pure vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla. At Cole Farms they use a commercially available vanilla made by Schlotterbeck & Foss, a Portland company at 117 Preble Street Extension.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at: facebook.com/brookedojny