This dish was truly inspired by an appetizer on the menu at OGGI, one of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte. Here is my version…it is a definitely a palate pleaser…a touch of sweet, briny, and heat. You may just want to pour the sauce in a glass and drink it…or at least have a loaf of crusty bread at the ready. The sweetness and brininess from the mussels pair so well with the anise flavor from, not only the Sambuca, both also from the fresh basil…then you have the cream…OMG!
I am always amazed when I receive messages about how people love mussels, but have yet to try to prepare them at home. I get it…there is a bit of a fear factor there. I assure you, it is much easier than you think…and not daunting at all. Follow my simple method…and you will come out feeling like a gourmet chef in a fine French restaurant.
Local to Charlotte? Grab your PEI mussels at The Carolina Meat & Fish Company. Oh…and the Sambuca…grab a few mini bottles (if you can find them…and if you do…please tell me where)…I searched high and low and ended up only finding a small bottle…no worries…it will keep for a long time…perfect for when you prepare this dish again and again!
One critical step in this recipe is to make sure you soak your mussels for a few minutes in a bath of water and a tablespoon or so of flour. The mussels with ingest the flour and spit it out along with any dirt that may be hiding out in its shell. After a few minutes…rinse well and reserve. Be sure to discard any mussels that are open.
In a deep pan, heat to medium, the olive oil, garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Soften for just a few minutes. Add in the diced tomatoes.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Pour in the clam juice and Sambuca. Allow to come to a heavy simmer…just below boiling.
Toss in your mussels…depending on the size of your pan…you may have to steam them in two batches. Cover and allow the mussels to open up…the mussels will cook quickly…have a bowl ready…as soon as the mussels open…remove from pan and reserve in the bowl. Continue this process until all mussels have opened and have been transferred to the bowl. Discard any mussels that do not open after a few minutes.
Let’s prepare this luscious sauce. Add the heavy whipping cream to the pan. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the sauce to slightly thicken…you are not looking for a gravy consistency…just a sauce that will gently coat the back of a spoon. This will take only a few minutes. Taste. I usually add a touch more salt and Sambuca, at this point. Toss in your lemon wedges and about half of the fresh basil.
Add the reserved mussels back to the pan…gently coat each mussel in the sauce. Allow to warm up just a minute or so. Pour mussels in a bowl…garnish with the remaining fresh basil. ENJOY!
Love this sauce? Check out my recipe for Clams with Sausage. Yearning for more recipe ideas using mussels…here ya go! Steamed Mussels in White Wine and Garlic, Mussels Marinara, Seafood Stew (Cioppino), and Seafood Fra Diavolo!