Woodfired Mussels alla Diavola in an Olive Oil CanFeb 07, 2017Posted by Chef LeoPrint
I recently traveled to Los Angeles and had an amazing dinner at Nancy Silvertons’ Pizzeria Mozza. I was there alone and decided to sit at the bar overlooking the pizza station and oven. When the waiter arrived, I immediately began to order. For those who have ever had the pleasure of dining with me, you’d know that I like to order entire sections of the menu and on occasion, the entire menu. Since I wasn’t there to eat salad, my order consisted of ALL the Antipasti and three pizzas. The waiter looked around at the packed restaurant and asked where the rest of my party was seated. You can imagine the look on his face when I said that it was just me!
As the Antipasti began to arrive, there was one that struck me the most and was my inspiration for this dish. Mussels al forno with salsa Calabrese was what they brought me. The mussels were cooked in a cast iron skillet with a spicy sauce made of garlic aioli and Calabrian chile peppers. Then, once the mussels were done, the dish was served in the skillet it was cooked in.
“Calabrian chile peppers are the size of large cherries with medium heat that have smoky fruit notes.” – Leo
I loved this dish so much that I immediately started jotting down notes on how I could make these at home. I have to admit, the mussels I ate at Mozza were a little too California for my style of cooking but I knew that with a couple tweaks, this would be something that I could make for a group of friends and easily follow it up with some great pizzas.
I want you to try the recipe as I wrote it and then recreate it on your own. I love spicy food and the sauce definitely has some kick to it. The combination of sautéed garlic, Datterini tomatoes, white wine, and Calabrian peppers work fantastic with the flavor and texture of the mussels. If you think it has too much spice, cut down on the crushed red pepper flakes but not the Calabrian chiles. The chiles give this dish a briny note that I actually found myself craving hours later.
The best way to serve these are to have your crostini made before you start cooking the mussels. Place a large serving platter in the center of the table and when the mussels come out of the oven, pour them onto the platter in front of your guests. The oo’s and ah’s you’ll get from your presentation will be as good as the ones you get when everyone digs in and starts eating. Salute!
Cooking in a Can
Not all Olive Oil cans are created equal. A 3 – liter can will fit inside your Forno Bravo oven standing up without tilting it.
Larger cans are too tall and will not fit through the oven opening.
Place your mussels in a bowl and run them under cold running water. Rinse them to get rid of debris on their outer shells. Next, remove their beards. The easiest way is to pull it downwards towards the hinge of the shell until it comes out. Finally, check for mussels that are open.
Give them a tap on the counter. If they don’t close, throw them out because the are dead and shouldn’t be eaten.
Datterini tomatoes are known for their petite and elongated shape. Appropriately named “little dates”, these Italian tomatoes are steam peeled of their skins and make an incredibly sweet and delectable tomato sauce.
The Origin of Diavolo
As with all dishes that were passed down through generations, there is some controversy as to where the first Diavolo sauce came from. Those from Southern Italy will agree that a spicy tomato sauce over pasta or fish was a staple of their regional cuisine.
There’s others that will argue that this was another Italian-American dish that evolved from the first immigrants who entered the United States through New York. Luckily, both sides will agree that this delicious sauce pairs great with shrimp, lobster, or mussels either on their own or over a bowl of linguine or bucatini.
Mussels alla Diavola
Yield: Serves 4-6
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2-4, Tutto Calabria brand Hot Long Chili Peppers
- 2 – 14.28 oz cans, Carmelina e’…San Marzano brand Datterini Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
- 3 pounds Mussels, cleaned
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, coarse
- Preheat your wood fired oven to 650 degrees f.
- Use a can opener to carefully remove the top from an olive oil can. Once removed, the edges may be sharp. Look for a can that can be placed inside the opening of your oven without tipping it. A 3-litre can works great in my Napoli 120 oven.
- In a cast iron sauté pan, add the olive oil, sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Place the pan just inside the mouth of the oven begin to heat the oil. After a few minutes, you’ll notice the garlic begin to sizzle. Continue to cook the garlic until it just begins to turn golden brown.
- Remove the sauté pan from the oven and add the datterini tomatoes and Calabrian chile peppers. Return the pan to the inside of the oven and give the pan a stir every couple minutes to keep the sauce from burning. After 5-6 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add the white wine.
- Return the sauté pan to the oven and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. you’ll notice that the sauce will begin to thicken during this stage.
- Place your mussels inside your olive oil can.
- You’ll need to prepare 2 covers with aluminum foil. The first should fit snuggly inside the can. You’ll use this to cover the top layer of mussels. The second will cover the entire top of the can.
- Once the sauce is ready, remove it from the oven and carefully pour the contents on top of the mussels. Give the can a shake to allow the sauce to get to the bottom of the can.
- Place the first piece of foil inside the can on top of the mussels and the second over the top of the can tightly. You’re creating a barrier to keep the steam from escaping from inside the can as it cooks.
- Place the can inside the oven. I like to put mine right next to a pile of coals.
- Cook for 8-10 minutes, rotating the can half way through.
- After the cooking has completed, use oven mitts to remove the can from the oven.
- Pour all the mussels into a large serving platter. Check to see that all the mussels have opened are are full cooked. Discard any unopened mussels.
- Place slices of grilled/toasted bread around the boarder of the platter.
- Garnish the mussels with chopped parsley and a bit of olive oil.
- Buon’ apetitto!
To learn more about Leo Spizzirri visit www.askleopizza.com