While recently in Kennebunkport Maine I had a dish of mussels that may very well have been the best I have ever had! It was a combination of the fresh mussels prepared with a wonderful sauce, dining outside overlooking lovely scenery, and the company of my beautiful wife. The day started off with the weather a bit balmy and uncertain. We walked into town, from our hotel, The Nonantum Resort on the water in Kennebunkport since 1883, where we were having a most enjoyable stay discovering the beauty of our first trip to Maine. We started to look for a place to have lunch when we came upon a nicely styled building with a restaurant upstairs called 'Tia's Topside' which offered outdoor dining. We took a chance and decided to dine outside which turned out to be the right choice on all accounts, weather, food and scenery. Having had lobster three times over the past two days I decided to have the mussels which were advertised steamed in white wine with a tomato, fennel, Chorizo sauce with rustic grilled herbed garlic bread. As stated in my opening sentence, the mussels may very well have been the best I have ever had! I made them last night for a dinner with some friends and thought this might be a good recipe to share while we are awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Sharon. One more culinary find in Kennebunkport, 'Rococo Artisan Ice Cream', for some of the most interesting ice cream flavors imaginable. I tried the Sweet Avocado Cayenne and the Goat Cheese with Blackberry Chambord. OMG, this place is reason enough to go back to Maine. Please stay safe through the storm and hopefully you can prepare some wonderful food to enjoy with friends, family and pets while riding out the storm.
White Wine Steamed Mussels in Tomato, Fennel Chorizo Sauce with Rustic Grilled Herbed Garlic Bread
(serves 4 as a main course)
Rustic Grilled Herbed Garlic Bread:
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh Rosemary, chopped fine
1 cup regular olive oil
1 round loaf of rustic Italian bread, sliced ½ thick
Combine the garlic, Rosemary and olive oil in a bowl, mix well, and brush the bread slices generously on both sides. Grill the bread on both sides until golden brown and crispy. If a grill is not convenient simply broil both sides until golden brown and crispy to gain similar cooking effect. Set bread aside to serve with mussels. Bread can be quickly warmed up in the oven when serving.
Tomato, Fennel Chorizo Sauce:
8 ounces of chorizo, diced ¼ inch
(more or less according to how packaged. I use 2 whole links.)
Regular olive oil if needed
1 medium onion, peeled and diced ¼ inch
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed, trimmed and diced ¼ inch
1 28 ounce can tomato puree or sauce
You favorite hot sauce added to taste (I prefer Red Devil)
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the diced chorizo. Stir while cooking and get chorizos nicely golden brown and crunchy on the edges. If pan looks too dry add some regular olive oil, just a small amount at a time to make sure chorizos don’t burn. When chorizos are nicely browned add the onion and fennel and continue cooking until onion and fennel are wilted and tender, adjust heat if necessary. Next, add the tomato puree or sauce, bring to a simmer while stirring, and cook on simmer for 10 minutes. Add hot sauce to taste. The mixture should not need any salt or pepper but if your taste disagrees, certainly season to your own taste. Keep warm until mussels are steamed. (If making in advance simply store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use which could even be a few days later.)
White Wine Steamed Mussels
2 cups dry white wine
4 pounds fresh mussels, beards removed and cleaned
Place the cleaned mussels in a large low braising or paella style pan and add the white wine. Turn the heat on to high, cover the pan, and cook until the mussels all start to open. Lift lid and check the progress of the mussels opening frequently as you don’t want them to overcook or dry out. Once the mussels are opened pour the warm tomato, fennel, chorizo sauce over the mussels, cover the pan again, and allow the cook for another 2 minutes at a medium simmer.
Finish and Serving
Prepare 4 good size bowls by placing 2 of the grilled bread slices, slightly crossing off to one side, and spoon mussels off to the other side slightly overlapping the bread. Make sure and spoon plenty of sauce over mussels. Serve immediately.