My wife, Lisa, and I like mussels a lot, especially when we’re having friends over. It’s a very social meal, best eaten with the pot in the center of the table so everyone can scoop their own servings. These shellfish are a great vehicle for any flavor—from coriander to sage—because they have a natural balance of salty and sweet. They easily become a complete meal with a salad and a loaf or two of crusty bread or, better yet, lots of fries—make sure to serve enough to soak up all the tasty juices from the pot. If you’re having more than four people over, simply double the quantities, use a bigger pot, and increase the cooking time, turning off the heat once the mussels are open.
Ground limon omani infuses the mussels and broth with a tangy citrus flavor without the hassle of squeezing fresh fruit. That sharpness is mellowed by savory dried garlic and sweet fresh shallots.
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1⁄2 whole limon omani (dried Persian lime; 2 grams)
2 dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried garlic slices (3 grams)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (2 grams)
1⁄4 teaspoon peperoncini (dried Calabrian chile) or red pepper flakes (1⁄2 gram)
Crack and crush the limon omani into smaller pieces by pressing it against a cutting board with your palm. Transfer the pieces to a spice grinder along with the bay leaves, garlic, coriander, and peperoncini and finely grind them together.
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed well
1 large shallot, minced
1 celery stalk, very finely diced
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Place the mussels in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let them sit for 1 minute to spit out any sand, then lift them out and set them into a colander (don’t dump them with the water into the colander, otherwise the sand on the bottom of the bowl will go right back on the mussels). Discard any mussels with cracked shells. Pluck or cut off any beards, then rinse and scrub the shells well to thoroughly clean them. Repeat the process as needed until there is no more sand or grit left.
Heat a Dutch oven or wide pot over high heat for 5 minutes. Once the Dutch oven is really hot, add the mussels, shallot, celery, wine, and spice blend. Cover immediately and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir well to mix everything evenly, cover again, and cook for another 4 minutes. Uncover, stir again, cover, and cook until the mussels open, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir well, and generously drizzle with some oil. Serve immediately with good bread to soak up the sauce (discard any mussels that don’t open).