Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mussles à la Jeff and Ruffino Orvieto Classico

Combining a little bit of French, Spanish and Italian influences this evening worked out quite well for a new recipe. I'd been wanting to cook mussels and when our Valentine's Day plans fell through due to a sick two year old, the opportunity presented itself.

Shopping at Binny's for wine and cheese, I picked up more than a few nice bottles of wine, including the Ruffino Orvieto Classico. It's not anything to write home about (although worthy of a mention in the blog), but it is very food friendly and quite affordable. Some Orvieto wines can veer to the sweet side, but this was not overly sweet and paired well with the spicy and smokey mussels I prepared for dinner. As a side note, Orvieto is a beautiful Umbrian hill town that was a stop on my honeymoon. It rises out of the central Italian landscape, perched majestically on a plateau of tufa. The cathedral is stunning and the food is as good as the wine. It's an easy day-trip from Rome or Florence or a great over-night stop between the two.

Anyway, on to the mussels. I wanted to incorporate some La Quercia pancetta I also bought at Binny's. The recipe follows:

• 1 and a half pounds of cleaned, scrubbed, debearded mussels (in this case from Fresh Market)
• Quarter pound diced La Quercia pancetta
• Small sweet onion finely diced
• Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Three cloves garlic finely diced
• Two tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 and a half teaspoons smoked paprika
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• Pinch of saffron threads
• Half a cup to three-quarters cup of white wine (Orvieto Classico in this case)
• salt and pepper to taste

Bring olive oil to temp over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook for two minutes. Add onion and cook until nearly translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about two minutes). Make a clear spot and add tomato paste, saffron, smoked paprika, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook for a few minutes more, then stir to mix together. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add mussels and cover. Cook for 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Stir after four minutes, recover and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes or until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that have not opened.

Served over toasted sourdough planks rubbed with garlic.