Monday, February 22, 2010

Recipe: Nantucket-Style Arrabiatta with Mussels and Linguica

I love Nantucket, it is one of my favorite islands and given my proximity to it that makes me fortunate. Amongst the island hoppers that visit the Massachusetts Islands there are basically two kinds of people: those who prefer Nantucket and those who prefer Martha's Vineyard. I won't go into the "hows", "whys" and "what fors" because it is just a matter of vibe and lifestyle. I'll just say again, I'm a Nantucket guy.

It's a small island and very picturesque, the sidewalks are brick and many of the streets are still cobblestone. There are no Subways, Kentucky Fried Chickens, McDonald's or Burger Kings. In fact, if you removed the cars and delivery trucks you'd see little obvious evidence of the modern world outside of electricity.

It's not an inexpensive place, though anyone who spends a lot of time on islands will know that is just part of the economics of bringing goods to market there. The other reason is because of the kind of tourists who visit Nantucket, the well-heeled and famous. This keeps things like dining out a little on the expensive side. That's not to say that deals can't be found or had, they can, it just means you have to look a little harder.

One of those deals was not the place where I first had the dish to the right. It was at the end of the 2005 season and my wife and I wandered into an Italian place about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. The staff were friendly enough but the food was not remarkable, in fact the appetizer was disappointing considering its promise and price. I need not mention the establishment's name because they went out of business early next season.

To their credit they did give me the idea for the recipe I offer here. I liked their concept better than their product, and I knew I could pull it off better. For one, it is a simple recipe and secondly, I probably get better linguica than they do. Done well, it is a hearty and tasty meal that certainly has "Southern New England" written all over it even though it is an obvious Italian-Portuguese fusion. Go figure! Anyway, it is mild to very spicy (your choice) and very tasty and was a big hit the first time I sprung it on dinner guests. Serve it with a nice red wine and some crusty bread with sweet butter. In my area I'm lucky enough to get fresh pao secos, a popular Portuguese roll which is the perfect bread for this dish.

Nantucket-Style Arrabiatta with Mussels and Linguica

Prepare the marinara recipe found here.
1 lb. of linguini
1 lbs of linguica cut into slices
1 large clove of garlic (sliced thin)
1-2 Tbs of butter
2 lbs of mussels (washed, scrubbed and debearded)
1/4 to 2 tsp red pepper flakes (as mild or as hot as you like it).
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a very large pan, prepare the marinara recipe, let it simmer for an hour.

When the marinara has been simmering for 45 minutes, set a large pan of water to cook the linguini in the normal way.

While the pasta water is set to boil and the marinara sauce is simmering, place the sliced linguica in a skillet and fry until firm and cooked through. Remove from pan and reserve 3 Tbs of the fat/oil.

Add the linguica, linguica oil, sliced garlic and the red pepper flakes to the marinara sauce and continue simmering.

As the pasta water comes to a boil, add the cleaned mussels to the marinara sauce. Do not stir them in. Cover the pan and continue simmering until all the mussels open wide. Remove any mussels that do not open.

When the linguini is done, drain and toss with butter. Set aside.

Remove the mussel, linguica and sauce mixture from the heat and transfer to a large serving bowl. Toss together to blend and distribute the mussels and sauce evenly. Serve over the cooked pasta garnished with some fresh basil. Offer with a crusty bread.

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