It seems like this would be an expensive dish, but it's not. For two people, you only need: about a cup of fregola, half a fennel bulb, one large shallot, a sprig each thyme and marjoram, and about a pound each mussels and clams, a splash of wine and about a half of a 14.5 oz can of tomato. About $9.50 is what this will set you back for two! - frankieolives —fo
Test Kitchen Notes
Frankieolives's Fregola with Clams & Mussels is delicious. I kind of cheated by picking it because I KNOW I like everything in it. But with this dish, it’s the method that really makes it; season and sweat the veggies, then caramelize the tomatoes (this is key so do pay attention to the fabulous smell that tells you when it is ready for deglazing). I added the clams and mussels together. I think next time the clams will go in first as they take just a couple minutes longer to open but everything was great and I had exceptionally fat tender mussels which was a happy thing. I could not find fregola so I used Israeli couscous and it worked just fine. A bite with a mussel or clam, a bit of fregola (or couscous) and an olive, pulled through the juice then consumed -- perfect! - aargersi —aargersi
First things first, boil your fregola. And don't forget to salt your water. How much salt? It should taste of the sea. Once it's done, drain and set aside, and reserve about a cup of pasta cooking water. NOTE: Fregola, tiny as it is, is a hard pasta and takes some time to cook, so don't make the mistake of waiting till after everything is perfectly sweated down and caramelized, your shellfish popped open, your fresh herbs tossed into the pan. Get the fregola going pronto.
Clean up your mussels: scrub off their little barnacles and shave off the manly little beard that some of them have grown. The best way to do this is to get a grip on the whiskers, yank them down toward their hinge end and pull them off. If you try to pull them through the lip, you will kill the mussel. The beard is attached to the creature inside, not the shell.
Dice your shallot and fennel. Rough chop your herbs. I'm using marjoram, thyme and fennel frond. Pit and give your olives a rough chop.
Now get all your fennel and shallot in a pan with a leaf of bay and sweat it all down. Sweat? Heck yeah! That means no color on that veg. Be sure to salt your veg here. Every layer that you add to the pan should be salted so that the entire dish is seasoned, not just the surface.
Get your tomato in the pan when your aromatics are soft. Here's the thing, canned tomato is a raw product, and you have to cook it out to caramelize the sugars and concentrate the flavor. So, cook it out till it looks all rusty colored and smells like delicious tomato caramel. Oh, and of course you should salt the tomato...
When it smells like I have just described, deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine, scraping up any tomato bits on the bottom of the pan.
Have at the ready a lid for your pan, your herbs, your cooked fregola, your shellfish and your olives. Oh, and the reserved pasta water. When the wine has cooked out, add these ingredients to the pan with about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.
Cover and let cook till your shellfish pops open. Give the pan a shake every now and again to help keep things moving.
Shells are open. Everything is cooked through. Now dip your finger in this sauce. Is it seasoned well? If not, get your salt in now. If it doesn't look saucy enough, add a little more of the pasta water. If it's too loose, crank the heat and shake the pan to quickly reduce the liquid.
Scoop into pretty, simple bowls, making sure that it's good and saucy.
I write. I cook. I want A&M's job! Just kidding. No, I'm not. I used to be a professional chef, and while I no longer want to be in a professional kitchen, I could never stop cooking. How cliche that I write and cook, nonetheless, the two marry quite happily and blogging fulfills both of those passions for me with an immediacy that I crave. I would love some day to do it full-time.
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