We were invited over to our friend Monte’s for dinner last week. Monte, Ron and I all love mussels, so I offered to prepare them as our contribution to the meal. One of my missions on this last trip to New York was to enjoy as much seafood as possible, so buying mussels at Cor-J Seafood (a great place for the BEST fresh fish and seafood in the Hamptons) and bringing them to Monte’s fit in well with my plan.
I’ve prepared mussels a few times and was looking for a new and different way to do them. In a large stockpot on Monte’s grill, I browned a quarter pound of porchetta (which Ron and I had purchased at Scotto’s, the local pork store in Hampton Bays), cut in small cubes, in 1 tbsp. olive oil, then added a generous pinch of hot red pepper flakes, a medium onion, diced, and one large clove of garlic, finely minced. When the onion was cooked to translucent, I added a bottle of beer and the fresh mussels (approximately 3 dozen) that had been thoroughly rinsed in cold water in a colander (be sure to tap any mussels that are opened and, if they do not close, throw them out as they are bad and should NOT be eaten). Once the contents of the pot were boiling, I lowered the heat to medium, covered the pot, and simmered for approximately 7 minutes or until the mussels began to open. I turned the heat off and added 2 tbsp. butter (for flavor) and 2 tbsp. of fresh parsley, chopped fine, for color and garnish.
The mussels prepared this way were fine, but I’ve had better recipes. We had a lot of leftover porchetta/onion/beer/mussel broth left over and I decided to make a Manhattan Clam Chowder the next day to use it up. I found a great recipe for Manhattan Clam Chowder by Sam Sifton in the NYT Cooking App and modified it to make the BEST, and I mean the BEST, clam chowder I’ve ever tasted, or certainly made, in the past. Using the broth from the steamed mussels from the night before created the most delicious broth – seriously, like the best bouilabaisse you’ve experienced. Here’s what I did and what I’ll definitely do again:
1). Over medium-low heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter and added 1 large onion, diced, and 2 large cloves of garlic, minced;
2). Once the onion was cooked to translucent, add 4 ribs of celery and 4 large carrots, all diced into small cubes;
3). Stir in 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed, and 1 litre of low sodium chicken broth and bring to a simmer;
4). Add the leftover porchetta/onion/beer/mussel broth from the night before, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp. of dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. of black pepper and a generous pinch of hot red pepper flakes;
5). When the potatoes are tender, add 1 – 28 oz. can of Italian whole tomatoes and, using your hands, squeeze the whole tomatoes into large chunks and add to the chowder with all of the juice;
6). Add 2 small (284 g) cans of chopped clams with their juices and allow to simmer for 5 minutes;
7). Remove stock pot from heat, and remove and discard bay leaves;
8). Let the chowder sit to allow the flavors to blend and reheat to serve. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and garlic toast or, if you’re on the East coast, oyster crackers (traditionally served with chowders and bisques).
Even though the initial mussel recipe wasn’t my favorite, I would make it again in a heartbeat to repeat this Manhattan Clam Chowder. Like any good stew, this chowder got better and better every time we reheated it and was truly delicious!