Uncle Vittorio in action - Italy (July 2008)
This is another example of how to match seafood with potatoes. It is a simple and delicious dish and also very cheap to make; fortunately mussels are not expensive - not yet! and potatoes are probably the cheapest ingredients you can buy in a veg shop. This recipe is from the South East of Italy and has been passed to me by my uncle Vittorio (he is from Puglia region of Italy), an excellent cook who I regard as my mentor. When I was a little boy I spent lots of time with him in the kitchen and many of the recipes you can see in this website come from his day to day home cooking repertoire.
Ingredients (Metric & Imperial measurements):
Nutrition facts: Calories 650 per serving.
Ingredients (U.S. measurements):
Take a deep pan that is suitable for use in the oven and spread some olive oil in the bottom. Alternatively you can use a roasting tin, but it is important the tin has a lid (later, you will see why having a lid is important).
Slice all the potatoes, making slices about 3 mm (1/8") thick.
Form the first layer in the bottom of the pan, by laying the potato slices.
Once the first layer is completed, drizzle with some olive oil.
Then, sprinkle with black pepper. Now, make a second layer and repeat the oil and black pepper stages. If you have enough potato slices, make a third layer, as I did for this recipe. If you are using a larger roasting tin you may get a couple of layers only, which is fine anyway.
This picture shows my third and final layer. As you can see, I am not adding any salt, but just black pepper. The reason why I am not adding salt is because the fish stock I am going to add at the next stage will be salty enough to season the potatoes.
Prepare some fish stock. Dissolve one fish stock cube in 450 ml (1 7/8 cups) of boiling water.
Now, put the pan on low heat and add a couple of ladles of fish stock.
Next, cover with a lid and steam the potatoes for about 15-20 minutes. Here, we want the potatoes “nearly” cooked because after, at a later stage, they will complete the cooking in the oven.
If you think that after 15 minutes the inside of the pan is to watery, you can remove part of the liquid with a spoon or you can complete the 20 minutes taking away the lid, to dry it a bit.
Meanwhile, chop the parsley.
Break the eggs into a small bowl and stir with a fork.
Add the parsley.
Add the Parmesan cheese, while you are stirring.
Check that the batter is not too runny but at the same time not too firm.
Season the batter with black pepper.
Season the batter with salt, but not too much because the Parmesan cheese is already salty. Set the batter aside.
Put some olive oil into a large pan that can contain all the mussels. Heat the oil on high heat and then add the garlic (sliced).
After a minute or two add the mussels into the pan.
Give a quick stir using a big metal spoon, so that all the mussels are coated with the garlic flavoured oil.
Cover with a lid and leave it for 3-4 minutes. Here, we don’t want to overcook the mussels because later they have to go in the oven, we just need to open them using the heat.
This picture shows the mussels that have opened. If you want to know how to deal with mussels, check “fish preparation”, featured in the top tips section of the website.
For each mussel, get rid of the empty half-shell and lay the other half with the good stuff attached onto a large tray.
Meanwhile, the potatoes are ready, they are now steamed and have also absorbed most of the stock. We can now proceed with the next stage.
Using a spoon, tip some of the batter inside the half-shell containing the mollusc.
Cover the surface of the top potato layer with the half-shells as shown in the picture. When you are doing this job, pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
For this recipe I have used only half of the mussels available because I have used a small diameter pan, however if you are going to use a large rectangular roasting tin, I am quite sure that you will need all the mussels available (1 kg). Next, put the pan into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, uncovered.
This is the final result after 20 minutes cooking.
This is a closer view so that you can have a better idea of what it should look like.
Then, it is just a matter of serving it in the fashion you like and don’t forget a glass of chilled white wine.
Federico Pezzaioli is an ex-badass Italian Paratrooper on a mission - to make creating delicious authentic Italian food really easy. He researches, writes and photographs each recipe with the same attention to detail he used to apply to packing his parachute.
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