Stuffed Mussels 

(“Mitili Gratinati” “Cozze Oreganate”)  

  

The blue mussels harvested in the Atlantic coasts, are abundant in the waters around Long Island.  

These mussels, with the characteristic dark blue shell can grow to about 3 inches in length, which is the ideal size to make the stuffed mussels. 

 

As usually, the mussels must be cleaned and debearded when you are ready to cook them; until then keep mussels refrigerated in an open container, covered with a wet rag or ice. 

Make sure that the mussels are fresh and they are tightly closed; they should be light, without sand inside; if they are open, they should instantly snap shut when tapped. Also discard any mussel with broken or chipped shell.  

 

Wild mussels must be washed with running water and soaked in lightly salted water for at least 1 hour, to allow the mussels to breathe and to eject any sand. 

Carefully protect your hands if using a knife to eliminate the beards and scrape the outside of the mussels to remove any incrustations on the shells. The beard is a little string that the mussels use to anchor or to cling to rocks. 

 

Transfer mussels into a bowl with cold water, one at a time and use a small knife or a little brush, to check and remove any beard and any barnacles left.  

Now mussels are ready for the last wash and to be prepared. 

Sometime ago, I tried the New Zealand Green Shell Mussels, and I was surprised of the qualities of these mollusks: in fact to assure freshness as soon the mussels are harvested they are blanched and frozen on the half shell, the flesh is tender, with a sweet taste, they come cleaned, sand free and ready to use. 

The New Zealand government has established rigid regulations to guarantee that the Green Shell Mussels are farmed in clean pollution free sea waters and they are fed with natural food sources. 

The Green Shell Mussels are cultivated in ropes for cleaner shells and grit free flesh.  

Even though there is no difference in taste, the color of the meat of the male mussel is creamy white, the flesh from a light pink to apricot identifies the female mussel. 

 

Serves 4 to 5  

INGREDIENTS  

  • 3 lb. mussels, debearded, scrubbed and rinsed or 2lb. frozen Green Shell 
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed 
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil 
  • ½ cup of white wine (or water) 
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil  
  • 1 small onion finely diced 
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs 
  • 2 cloves of garlic pressed or finely chopped   
  • ½ cup of parsley, chopped 
  • ½ teaspoon of oregano 
  • Pinch of red crushed peperoncino flakes (optional)  
  • salt and pepper  
  • olive oil to drizzle over  
  • Lemon wedges for garnish 

PREPARATION 

  

The Mussels 

 

Wash the mussels in cold water and set aside. 

In a sauté pan, over a medium heat, place two tablespoons of oil and 2 crushed cloves of garlic and with a wooden spoon squeeze the garlic into the oil to release its flavor. When garlic is light golden discard; place the mussels and the wine or water into the pot. Cover and steam for 2-3 minutes, continuously checking for open mussels: as they open, remove with a tong or a slotted long-handled spoon and set on the side. Discard any unopened mussels. When cool, remove half shells from each mussel and set the mollusk on the half shells in a baking tray.

If using the New Zealand Green Shell Mussels, set in a baking tray; they are ready to be stuffed because they are clean, on the half shell and blanched.  

 

The Stuffing 

In a skillet, over a medium heat, place 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the diced onion. Sauté the onion to a rich golden color and add the breadcrumbs, keep turning until the breadcrumbs are toasted to a light brown color.
In a medium bowl, combine the onion and toasted breadcrumbs with the finely chopped garlic, the parsley, oregano, peperoncino, salt and black pepper to taste. 

 

 cozze gratinate

 

The Making

Cover the mussels loosely in the half shell with 1 slightly full teaspoon of the stuffing, do not pack down the stuffing. 

Sprinkle any leftover stuffing on top, drizzle with olive oil and add ¼ cup of water on baking tray; place under the broiler or bake at 400 degrees until the top of the stuffing is golden brown. 

Place mussels onto a platter, garnish with lemon wedge and serve with a Californian chardonnay or a Sicilian Etna Bianco.