We had the pleasure of working with Italian cooking authority and cookbook author Julia della Croce at Canal House while photographing her most recent book, Italian Comfort Food. One of the last dishes we prepared together before the shoot was over called for little square cubes of potato. Rather than discarding the trimmings, someone put them into a small tub of water and stuck them in the fridge — the perfect thing to take up room in the cramped space just to be thrown away two weeks later.
A couple of days passed, and looking to make something for lunch, I went rummaging around in the refrigerator and found a bag of fresh mussels. Okay. Steamed open, they’d make a nice meal, but not quite enough to satisfy our hunger. Rooting around some more, I discovered the tub of potato trimmings. What if I added them to the pot with the mussels? How bad could that be?
Well, by now you know the end of the story. Steamed together — the mussel broth soaking into the tender scraps of potato; the potatoes giving body to the flavorful broth —the dish was a revelation, yet obvious in hindsight. No matter. It’s so delicious we now have a hard time preparing steamed mussels any other way. - MH
Adapted from "Canal House Cooking Volume No.5" by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer.
- 1 russet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
- 1½ cups dry white wine
- 2 pounds mussels, debearded
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- 1–2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Rind from ¼ preserved lemon, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2–3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped
Put potatoes, wine, and 1 cup of water into a heavy medium pot. Cover and boil over medium-high heat until the potatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, butter, garlic, and preserved lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and steam mussels, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and breaking apart and the mussels open, 8–10 minutes.
Remove from heat. Drizzle in the oil and add the parsley. Spoon the mussels, potatoes, and broth into big warm bowls. Discard any shells that don’t open.