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Smoky Chile and Tomato Mussels

Three bowls of smoky chile and tomato mussels, on a table flanked by a glass of beer and a few empty mussel shells.
The smokiness of the chile here helps the sweetness of the mussels sing. This is a super-speedy supper that feels like so much more than the sum of its parts. Surprisingly, mussels are fairly inexpensive, so treat yourself!
Lola Milne

Prep 30 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
Entree
American
2 to 3 servings
450 kcal

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium (about 6 oz) onion thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or ancho chile flakes
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 garlic clove thinly sliced, or more to taste
  • One can (28 ounce) whole plum tomatoes
  • One can (14 ounce) white beans (such as cannellini or navy beans) drained and rinsed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound 10 ounces live mussels* scrubbed and debearded
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lime preferably organic
  • Small handful fresh cilantro leaves torn
  • Crusty bread or toasted baguette slices to serve

Directions 

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
  • In a medium roasting pan, toss together the oil, onion, and celery, and pop in the oven until the onion and celery have softened and are beginning to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Stir in the chile flakes, cinnamon stick, cumin seed, and garlic. Return the roasting pan to the oven to bloom the spices, about 2 minutes, then remove from the oven again and add the tomatoes and white beans. Season lightly (remember that the mussels may contribute some saltiness) and return to the oven. Continue roasting, breaking down the tomatoes once or twice with the back of a spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly but is still brothy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Remove the roasting pan from the oven once more and stir in the mussels. Return to the oven and roast until the mussels have sprung open, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed.
  • Dump the sauce and mussels into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro, and serve immediately, passing bread or toasted baguette on the side.

Notes

*Do I need to soak mussels before cooking them?

Live mussels are probably still full of sand and grit, unfortunately. So it's best if you soak them before you move on to the cooking process. Really, it just takes a quick soak in fresh water for 20 minutes or so. During this time, the mussels will filter in the fresh water and expel the sand they're holding inside. After 20 minutes, they'll have a lot less grit and salt inside and will be much more comfortable to eat.