I don’t know about you, but when I cook mussels or clams at home, the flavor is never big enough and the sauce is never rich enough to justify the effort. This recipe is the solution. The secret is lots of garlic, a good drinkable wine, and — the really unusual touch — breadcrumbs to enrich the sauce. The result is big and bold and, with a side of grilled bread, makes a very satisfying lunch or first course. Though Bastianich prefers the mussels she ate growing up in Italy, she says, "If you get them fresh, they’re just as delicious here."
Excerpted from Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts (Artisan Books). Copyright 2012.
- 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil, or enough to coat the bottom of a wide pot
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 small onions, sliced into half-moons
- Kosher salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 dozen Littleneck clams, washed and scrubbed
- 1 Cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc or tocai fiulano
- 2 Pounds mussels, washed, scrubbed, and debearded
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 1/4-1/2 Cup dry, plain breadcrumbs
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Coat the bottom of a wide pot (one that has a well-fitting lid) with olive oil and add the crushed garlic cloves.
Turn up the heat to medium and allow the garlic to toast and turn golden. Once the garlic is golden, add the onions.
Let the onions cook slightly, 2-3 minutes (don’t let them soften too much). Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (the size of the pinch depending on how spicy you like it), then add the clams, turn up the heat, and cover.
After 3 minutes, add the wine, bring to a boil, and cover again.
A few minutes later, check the clams: when they’re just starting to open, add the mussels and bay leaves and cover again. Shake the pan every so often.
Wait another few minutes and check: when the mussels start to open, sprinkle in the breadcrumbs and toss to distribute evenly. The sauce should thicken, though don’t go crazy with breadcrumbs or the sauce will be muddy. Taste and adjust the salt.
When the clams and mussels are open and the sauce is thick, drizzle olive oil over everything and add lots of chopped parsley. Serve in a big bowl with grilled bread on the side.