Giovanni Ardizzoni, owner of Letojanni’s Da Nino restaurant, told me the secret to their baked mussels is moisture-absorbing pan carré, or crisped crumbs, not so different from white bread. You can use these same seasoned bread crumbs for baked stuffed clams or baked oysters.–Toni Lydecker
Now to Make Fresh Bread Crumbs
The allotment of seasoned bread crumbs in this recipe ensures a crisp, albeit scanty, embellishment. If you’re the carb-craving sort and crave a more ample embellishment, do some simple math and make an additional half batch bread crumbs. Or, go one better and make a double or even triple batch to stash in the freezer for next time. (If you lack bread crumbs, toss 1 or 2 slices bread, torn into several pieces, in a food processor and pulse until reduced to medium crumbs. If the bread crumbs are made from fresh bread, toast them lightly in a dry skillet or a toaster oven set on low heat just until dry.
Baked Mussels with Crisped Bread Crumbs
Makes 6 appetizer servings
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Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Adjust the oven rack to the top position.
In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and a few grindings black pepper. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix until the bread crumbs are thoroughly moistened.
Dump the mussels in a large skillet. Cover the skillet and place it over high heat, shaking often, until the mussels start to open. As the mussels open, transfer them to a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. (Because the mussels will be baked, they need be heated just long enough to force the shells open.) Snap off the top shells and arrange the mussels so they support each other evenly rather than tilt to one side.
Drizzle any cooking liquid from the pan over the mussels and into the shells. Spoon the seasoned bread crumbs over the mussels, packing them gently into the shells with the back of the spoon. Drizzle the mussels with a little more olive oil.
Bake the mussels just until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes. Serve the mussels warm or at room temperature.
Baked Mussels with Crisped Bread Crumbs Recipe © 2009 Toni Lydecker. Photo © 2009 Tina Rupp. All rights reserved. All materials used with permission.