A risotto such as this one, with flavorful, plump mussels nestled amongst tender grains of Arborio rice, lusciously sweet tomatoes and a fragrant mixture of onion, celery and herbs is just the thing to have for dinner on a cool spring evening such as yesterday or tonight. Pair it with a glass of dry Riesling or Chardonnay and you’re set.
Note: The recipe for the risotto appeared here originally; the version below is my adaptation.
2 lbs. black mussels
3 tablespoons mirin
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup mussel cooking liquid
Additional fish stock or water as needed
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely chopped, leaves included
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 lb. plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
a generous pinch of saffron
1 cup cooked fresh baby peas
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Clean the mussels. Inspect each one carefully and discard any that have opened (if some are partly open, tap them with your finger, and if they close back up they are O.K.) or have cracked shells. Place in a large bowl, fill the bowl with cold water and rinse several times, swishing the mussels around in the water, pouring out the water and refilling. Clean the shells, if necessary, with a brush or the end of one of the mussels, and pull out the beards – the hairy attachments emerging from the shells. Do not do this until just before cooking, or the mussels will die and spoil.
Place the mussels and mirin in a large pot or Dutch oven, cover and cook until the mussels have opened, about 4 minutes. Stir the mussels halfway through. Using tongs, transfer the mussels to a bowl, holding them over the pot first so any liquid in the shells will drain into the pot. Discard any that have not opened. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the mussel meat from their shells.
Line a strainer with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth, place over a saucepan and strain the broth from the mussels. Add more water or stock to make 5 cups of liquid. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Taste and season as desired.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy nonstick skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the finely chopped onion and the celery and a generous pinch of salt, and cook gently until the onion is just tender, about 3 minutes. Do not brown. If the vegetables begin to brown, that will affect the final taste and color of the risotto.
Stir in the arborio rice and the minced garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add the white wine and stir until it is no longer visible in the pan. Add the tomatoes and saffron and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more and stirring when the rice is almost dry. You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy, stir in the mussels and any juice that has accumulated in the bowl, and the peas. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in another ladleful of stock and remove from the heat. The mixture should be creamy; add more stock if it isn’t. Sprinkle with parsley and serve at once.
Time: About 90 minutes, including prep.