Food, recipe

Mussels and Italian Sausage Fra Diavolo

I love seafood. I love it most when it’s done right and still affordable. And that sometimes means that you are going to get the most bang for your buck if you do it at home. Mussels are one of those seafood treats that only look expansive and fancy. In reality they are one of the cheapest, freshest options in your local seafood case. So skip the shrimp, oyster and lobster and head straight for the mussels. Mussels are endlessly versatile, most often you seem them in a white wine sauce. They can also be done with bacon and smoked gouda which Lloyd lloves!. But today I went with a yummy, spicy, tomato based Fra Diavolo sauce.

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If you haven’t cleaned your own mussels at home and are wary of making yourself sick never fear! I am here for you! Check out my guide on How to Prep Mussels at Home. Once you have your mussels prepped let them sit in a bowl cold of water until you are ready for them. I like to wipe down all my surface after cleaning the mussels before pulling out my meat and veg for the next part of this meal. So having them tucked neatly away works best for me. But I am sure that for the sake of saving time that you could clean these babies while your sausage cooks.

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I use turkey sausage because it’s healthier, less heavy and easier to cook with since you get to skin the “drain the pan” step. I remove the casings from these pretties and pop them straight into the dutch oven I’ll be serving from.

While these guys are cooking I get a pot of water ready to boil my pasta in. This usually takes about fifteen minutes and by that time the rest of your sauce should be ready so the timing usually works out pretty well. Make sure you liberally salt your water. This is where your pasta is going to get it’s flavor.

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While your sausage is cooking and your water is starting to heat chop up some shallots and green onions and add these to the pan with your sausage.

Now it’s time to add in your crushed tomatoes. Only, I didn’t have crushed tomatoes. I thought I did but it turned out to be diced tomatoes. So I poured them into a tall cup and used my immersion blender to make them crushed. I also added in my spices and wine so that it was really easy to add to the pan once I was ready for that step.

Wait for your sauce to naturally thicken as the wine cooks off, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce was ready I dropped my pasta in the boiling water to get the cooking process started but I pulled them out about six minutes early so that the could finish cooking with the mussels in my sausage Fra Diavolo sauce. I used whole wheat pasta because it takes longer to cook, has a richer taste and holds up better when you cook it in a sauce like this.

As soon as the pasta goes in it is finally time to add your mussels! Drain the cold water off and add them to your sauce. Mix everything together and put the lid on. You want a nice tight fitting or heavy lid so that no steam escapes and your mussels get cooked fully.

Leave that lid on for five minutes. Do. Not. Peak. While your mussels are cooking you can do some last minute prep work. Put your bowls in the microwave so that they are nice and warm and grate some fresh garlic and chop up some basil. You want to add these straight into the pan as soon as you pull the lid off and give everything one last good stir so that they cook and release their flavors evenly.

When you pull that lid off and the cloud of steam dissipates you should see the welcome site of all these gorgeous open mussels.

When you serve it I suggest a dusting of shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of chopped basil leaves. It makes things more colorful and that fresh basil taste really offsets the spiciness and richness of the sauce.

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Note on mussels serving size: The bulk of the weight when you buy mussels is the shells. Usually for a main I aim for about a half lb of mussels per person when I’m mixing them into something hearty like this. If I was just doing mussels in a wine sauce with bread or frites I would shoot for closer to a pound a person. But if I was serving them as an appetizer I would only want a quarter pound per person. 

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb fresh mussels
  2. 1 lb Italian sausage
  3. 1 large shallot chopped
  4. 3-4 scallion bulb ends diced
  5. 1 can crushed tomatoes
  6. 1 cup dry white wine
  7. 1 Tbsp crushed red peppers (or to taste)
  8. 8 oz uncooked whole wheat pasta
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 3-4 grated garlic cloves
  11. 10-15 chopped basil leaves (reserve some for garnish)
  12. Parmesan cheese for garnish

Recipe:

  1. Clean and prep mussels.
  2. Start well-salted water to boiling.
  3. Remove casings and cook sausage in heavy bottomed pan with a tight or heavy lid.
  4. Chop onions big and add to pot.
  5. Once onions are translucent add in crushed tomatoes, wine, crushed red  peppers, salt and pepper and simmer until wine is cooked off.
  6. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes less than suggested time.
  7. Transfer half cooked pasta and mussels into pot, stir well and cover with lid. Do not touch for 5 minutes.
  8. Grate garlic, shop basil, heat serving bowls.
  9. Open lid and add in garlic and most of the basil leaves, stir well.
  10. Serve in heated bowls with a sprinkling of cheese and reserved chopped basil leaves.
Food

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is basically synonymous with southern comfort. There are a lot of different recipes and approaches out there. Some more authentic, some more haute cuisine. This is my take on the southern classic. It’s not quite how my Mama used to make it. But that’s cause my Mama is Indian and it wasn’t chicken pot pie so much as chicken biryani. But, I digress. The first step is the grocery store. I usually have a kitchen stocked full of staple ingredients but when I woke up one morning last fall aching to make a chicken pot pie I had nothing. So I went to my handy dandy, around the corner from me, Trader Joe’s and did a very specific shop! I came back with nothing but what was on my list! Miracles do happen.

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As you can see I cheated a little bit and used store bought pie crust. I do have an excellent pie crust recipe from food52 that calls for a little vodka. But that day I did have not the vodka or the patience to make a pie crust. I needed chicken pot pie in my mouth as quickly as possible. Which bring me to the recipe. If you want to take what is usually an hours long process of cooking/baking/prepping and speed things up the key is to be organized. Which is the case with most things in this life. The french have a word for this tactic it’s called mise en place and is literally translated to ‘putting in place.” So while my dutch oven slowly heated on the stove I set my pie crusts out to come to room temperature and got to dicing and chopping. I started with my onions, celery and carrots (a classic trilogy) and my herbs; rosemary and thyme.

 

And then while I slowly cook my vegetables down (carrots first, followed by onions and celery) and add in my spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder) I coat my chicken in flour and herbs. This marinades the chicken and allows the flour to evenly coat and cook once it goes into the pot.

 

Once you add the chicken in things get even easier. Pour in your chicken stock (low sodium is my preference) and then add your mushrooms and peas. Cover and let this simmer away while you prep your pie crust. Mine was store bought so I just poured myself a glass a wine and checked my instagram for a few minutes. I’m just kidding, I already had a glass of wine, I poured myself a second.

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After a little while on the stove your filling should look like this, chicken cooked through and beginning to shred, veggies soft and glistening. Your basic food porn. Now pour it into your pie crust shell and then feel free to get creative with the top! I went for circles and dots because it allowed for a number of cootie shot jokes during dinner. By this point I was on wine glass #3.

 

I actually ended up having to refrigerate the pie and eat it the next day because of a scheduling snafu with my fiancé. But it was still very tasty and my circles and dots held up fairly well! What do you think?

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Serves: 4-6

Total time: 1.5 hrs

Ingredients:

  1. Medium to large onion
  2. 3-4 carrots
  3. 4-5 celery stalks
  4. 2-3 table spoons chopped rosemary leaves (to taste)
  5. 2-3 table spoons chopped thyme leaves (to taste)
  6. 2-4 minced garlic cloves (to taste)
  7. 2 table spoons flour
  8. 3-4 chicken breasts
  9. 1 box low sodium chicken stock
  10. 1 box sliced mushrooms
  11. Half bag frozen peas
  12. Pie crust

Recipe

  1. While your pan heats (I use a dutch oven) dice your onions, carrots and celery. Remove the leaves from the rosemary and thyme and rough chop them to whatever your tastes is. Peel and mince garlic. Cube chicken breast.
  2. Add ingredients to the pan in the following order allowing each one to cook down before adding the next; carrots, onions, celery, garlic. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste as you go. Use splashes of your chicken stock deglaze as needed.
  3. While your veggies are cooking coat your cubed chicken breasts in a mixture of the chopped herbs, flour and some more salt, pepper, garlic powder (to taste).
  4. Once the veggies are cooked down add in your chicken and let this get a nice sear, use the chicken to deglaze. Once you are happy with the chicken you can add in the rest of the box of stock. As the flour cooks your sauce will begin to thicken.
  5. Now is the time to add your mushrooms and peas. If you don’t like mushrooms or peas feel free to opt out.
  6. Reduce your heat and let it simmer, covered, stirring occasionally.
  7. Prep your pie crust and then add the pie filling once you are happy with it’s consistency.
  8. Cover your pie with the second crust in any way that makes you happy and egg wash.
  9. Place in preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown. This time may vary depending on what crust you use. Remember the filling is cooked, you are only using the oven to get your crust cooked to perfection.

PS: I was just double checking that I had all ingredients listed by comparing my list to the first picture up above when I realized that I have a bag of parsley in there. This recipe does not call for parsley. I have no idea why it is in there. I suspect a food ghost.

PPS: Please share your recipes and takes on this southern classic! I’m always looking for new and different takes on an old favorite. And I would love to hear about any tips and tricks that have passed down in your family!