Quick and Impressive: Mussels Marinara

Every summer when I was growing up my family and I would go on a vacation to the sandy shores of Cape Cod. This always meant a week or two overflowing with chasing seagulls on salty beaches, going whale watching and mostly importantly, having memorable eating adventures. I still get giddy when we go to the restaurant with the giant boat filled with lobsters or when we get our French fries served in mini pails with shovels. Even though some of the Cape’s food can be very themed, there are plenty of serious eats as well. I still remember fondly many food memories such as a dinner in which my dad and I had veal and tender asparagus with balsamic glaze, lunches sipping on perfect clam chowder, waiting on line at the beach for thinly sliced and crisped onion rings and digging into steamers and buttered lobsters. I believe that from these wonderful vacations with my family my love of food was given a place to expand.

And while I have to wait until the end of the summer to go back to the Cape, I decided to enjoy some seafood with a dish of Mussels Marinara with Gruyere Toasts. I don’t think I have ever realized how adoringly cheap mussels are. For two dollars per pound why would I ever reserve mussels just for special occasions? Whenever you buy some mussels make sure that they are all closed. Open mussels usually mean that they are not alive and fresh, which is something no one wants. Once you have your mussels be sure in let them sit in a bowl filed with water. This will allow them to breath and expel any sand that is left in their shell. After the quick preparation they will open up when they are cooked and you will enjoy them. The Gruyere toast is simple and makes the perfect vessel to sop up the warm plum tomato sauce. It’s not the real Cape Cod, but it’s a lovely compromise.

Mussels Marinara with Gruyere Toasts

  •               Three tablespoons olive oil
  •               One small onion, finely diced
  •               4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  •               1 cup white wine
  •               32 ounce can of plum tomatoes
  •               3 pounds of mussels, closed
  •               ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  •               2 tablespoons butter
  •               1 baguette
  1. Place the mussels in a a bowl of water. This will allow them to breath and expel excess sand within their shells.
  2. In a deep saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add in the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion appears translucent, around eight minutes.
  3. Add the white wine and simmer for about five minutes while the wine reduces.
  4. Add the plum tomatoes and crush with the back of a wooden spoon until the tomatoes break down slightly and are not very chunky.
  5. Let this simmer while you prepare the Gruyere toast. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the baguette into one inch slices. Spread the butter on the stop of the pieces and sprinkle the bread evenly with the cheese. Place in the oven for around ten minutes, be sure to check every once in a while. You want to toasts to be golden brown but not burnt. Ovens vary, so be careful to adjust the cooking time to your ovens setting.
  6. While the toasts are crisping, place the mussels into the marinara sauce and let them cook until they open up.
  7. Place a portion of mussels in a bowl and top with some tomato sauce. Serve with the Gruyere toasts. Discard any mussels that are unopened.
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