This mussel dish was inspired by a recipe in Mario Batali’s Italian Grill. We’ve adapted it to suit our tastes and preferred cooking methods but have kept the same great flavour and flair of the original. A heavy cast iron dutch oven with a lid is necessary for our method. It’s a simple but impressive dish and best served with some good bread to sop up the liquid.
Serves 4 - 6
- 4 lbs PEI mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- most mussels purchased at grocery stores are already de-bearded
- grated zest & juice of two oranges
- grated zest & juice of one lemon
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (they contribute only a minor amount of heat & folks who don’t like spice can easily fish them out)
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 strips uncooked bacon, plain or maple, chopped finely
- 1 bunch fresh lemon thyme, leaves only, or 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup vodka or gin to flambé (you can substitute white wine, beer, or stock but may not get the flame effect)
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Heat up a cast iron dutch oven on a barbecue or grill over high heat until smokin’ hot.
In a very large bowl, combine orange & lemon zest and juice, olive oil, jalapeño, green onion, bacon, and thyme. Toss mussels in the bowl and combine, removing any shellfish which are open. Sprinkle with bread crumbs just before taking to the grill.
Dump the mussels and contents into the hot dutch oven careful to stand clear of any spatters. Pour the vodka or other liquid in and stand back as it flames. Put the lid and the dutch oven and cook for 2 mins. Remove the cover with an oven mitt and stir the mussels until they are all open. With oven mitts, turn the contents into a large bowl for serving. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and parsley and serve from the large bowl or scoop into individual bowls, making sure to divide up all the cooking liquid into each bowl.
Serve with crusty bread and a salad on the side or vegetables like grilled proscuitto wrapped asparagus, grilled artichokes, or baby squash. Alternately, you could serve the mussels atop a bed of spaghetti noodles tossed in olive oil & grated parmesan, spooning the mussel sauce over top.
Pair with a light, refreshing beer with a citrus note like Leffe Blonde or Hoegaarden or a white or rose wine that has a slight sweetness and citrus note such as a dry rose, un-oaked chardonnay, vidal or pinot blanc.