I haven’t written in a while and I do feel guilty about it. That’s how it goes when the writing follows a great food experience. I wish I could do that more frequently. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy this dish I cooked last weekend. Here’s what happened.
I went to the supermarket to do the usual weekly shopping and decided it was time I passed by the fishmonger as well. Weather is nice, full spring, for sure, some good stuff must be coming out of the sea. I get there and what do I see? Fresh squid. But not the wee ones. The real ones. 2-3 pounders. “mmmhhhh” was my first thought. My brain went immediately into “assembly” mode:
- What can I do with that?
- How should I cook it?
- What other goodies should I add to?
At first, I thought about a stew but then I saw the mussels on the side, there, just sitting quietly in their box, trying to avoid eye contact. “Too late, pals!”. There it was. Illumination. Pasta with mussels and squid. Now we were getting somewhere. Think about it: fuming spaghetti, with bits of squid and fresh tomato, all topped with splendid mussels in their shells. Still, I felt that something was missing. Think. Think. Think. Then I remembered that mussels go splendidly with strong, salty tastes, like pecorino. Have no pecorino. Have bottarga. Jackpot!
You might wonder: what is bottarga? It’s very simple, it’s roe. Caviar of the poor. There are two kinds sold in Italy: tuna and grey mullet roe. Tuna is more expensive, yet tastier and more sought for. I do have both, but my tuna one is fresh, thus I need to use it before it gets destroyed.
Anyway, we now have a dish in the planning and we can start cooking. First, we need to clean the squid and the mussels. Mussels are simple. First of all check that they are alive. To do that, see that they are closed when taking them off the bag. If they are open, “bang” them against the table and make sure that they “react” by closing the valves. If that doesn’t happen a few bangs, throw that shell away. Once they are closed, remove the “beard” by pulling it off the beast.
Squids are a bit more difficult. I asked my fishmonger to clean mine, but he didn’t a proper job and I had ink all over my kitchen. So make sure that everything is removed properly and keep the tentacles!
Start boiling the water for the pasta.
OK, now: prepare a base for the mussels. I used a big deep pot where I added some olive oil, to finely chopped sticks of celery, to chopped leeks, 2 cloves of garlic and 2 glassesand let it all blend and golden up. When that was the case (about 10 minutes), I added 2 glasses of chardonnay (or any white wine you have around) and threw in the mussles. Close the lid and cook slowly for about 15 minutes or until you think they are cooked. The lid is important, as it allows for a proper “sterilisation” of the mussel shells, by entrapping the high temperature steam in the pot.
Next, let’s prepare the squid. First of all, take the squid and chop it into small pieces (like 1×0.5 cm for example), including tentacles. Wash it all nicely under a lot of water. Now, in a wide and tallish pan, crush 2 cloves of garlic, add 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and warm it up. Cut a few thin slices of the bottarga, chop into as finely as you can and add it to the oil/garlic mix. Stir for 5 minutes and then add the squid and half a glass of white wine.
Cook at high temp for 5 minutes, turn down the heat and wait until the next step is ready. In the meantime, get some tomatoes and chop them finely.
Now, it gets “complicated” At this point, the water should be boiling, thus throw the pasta in. Take the mussels off their broth and toss them in the frying pan. Pass the broth through a sieve and put the liquid back in the pot. When the pasta is half cooked (let’s say 5 minutes) take it off that water and finish cooking it in the mussels broth. Just before it’s ready, drain it, put it back in the pan, add the fish together with the finely diced tomatoes.
Ready. Crack open another bottle of white (I love Chablis or Greco di Tufo with these dishes) and enjoy. I loved it!!! Foodgasmic!!!!
Here’s the “precise” list of ingredients:
- Olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 500 grams of spaghetti
- 1.5 kg of fresh mussels
- 1kg of fresh squid
- 5 tomatoes
- 3 slices of tuna bottarga
- 2 sticks of celery
- 2 leeks
- half a bottle of white wine
- a lot of hunger
- a love for good food