I am slightly ashamed that I haven't blogged (or cooked) in over a month, but I guess making your own meals is something you have to forego while you ramp up for your very first movie premiere, all while trying to make a new (old) house liveable.
That's not to say I haven't eaten well. Matty's parents have been staying with us and helping with the house, and were it not for his mother's dinners, I'd have desperately driven through the Chick-Fil-A drive-through every day (well, except for Sunday, I guess) for the past 4 weeks.
I did also have the pleasure and honor of being included in a dinner cooked by Cat Cora in this past month. I can barely tell you what all was on the menu, but I do remember a lovely, somewhat wine-induced haze of happiness as I rolled down the hill back home.
Part of the goodie bag to take home included Ms. Cora's book, Cooking from the Hip, which I'm only just now unpacking, along with the rest of my cookbooks. (I'm also just now remembering that the goodie bag also included some kind of delicious olive oil and maybe some olives which both would have been good for this dish, but ah, the perils of unprofessional packing - I don't know where either are).
Anyway. It felt so nice to cook again. I confess, I was a bit fumbly - I found myself screwing up my timing slightly, and I would wheel around to the left for my good knife (where it used to be at the apartment), and then end up doing a complete 360 to look for where they live now in the new house (back right corner). There's still a lot to get comfortable with, but this was the perfect fuss-free meal for getting comfortable.
I dialed back the broth portion of it a bit, using lesser amounts and reducing them down to more of a sauce. It's been so hot, that I think I'll save the broth-style dish for a cooler season. I added the bell pepper at the end because I wanted to introduce a different texture to the dish - it's cooked for about 2 minutes, just enough to lose absolute crispness, but not too long to defeat my purpose. Next time, I think I might leave the mussels in their shells just to make the dish look more substantial, even though it was really the perfect amount of mussel-to-pasta ratio as-is.
adapted from Cat Cora's Cooking from the Hip
8 oz. penne
1 T. olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green portion only, thinly sliced
1/4 c. dry vermouth
1 1/2 lbs. mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c. bottled clam juice
pinch of saffron threads
1 red bell pepper, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until soft and lightly brown.
3. Add the vermouth and mussels to the skillet. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Remove the opened mussels to a large bowl, discarding the ones that don't open. Add the garlic and clam juice to the skillet, and simmer over low heat until the liquid has reduced by half.
4. Remove the mussel meat from the shells and roughly chop. Add them back to the skillet along with the cooked penne, saffron and bell pepper. Toss thoroughly to coat and just take the slightest crisp out of the bell pepper. Serve immediately.