Gabrielle Hamilton swore off cooking when she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pursue fiction writing in 1995. Even with 20 years of kitchen work under her belt, she left New York City, never looking back. So when she met Misty Callis at what Gabrielle referred to as a “soulless catering job,” she never expected her new coworker—a reserved, non-communicative woman—to become a pivotal mentor. After working countless catering gigs together, cooking bland, inoffensive food, Gabrielle visited Misty’s farmhouse and everything changed. Here, amongst Misty’s organic garden, artisanal cheeses, and duck prosciutto, Gabrielle learned a truly valuable lesson: she relearned how to cook—for pleasure. And after many, many years, Gabrielle and Misty are reunited in Prune’s kitchen, cooking for pleasure and for each other.
MARINATED MUSSELS WITH SPANISH CHORIZO, ROASTED PEPPER, LEMON AND OREGANO
serves 4-6 as an appetizer or 6-8 as part of an antipasto
2 lbs. mussels
1 medium-sized red bell pepper
1 T. + ¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c. finely chopped yellow onion
½ c. dry white wine
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
½ t. kosher salt
¼ t. cayenne, optional
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2-3 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. + 1 t. minced fresh oregano, preferably Greek
¼ c. very thinly sliced hard Spanish chorizo, spicy optional
- Put the mussels in a bowl of cold water and swish them about. Drain the mussels and repeat the procedure. Remove any beards. Again fill the bowl of mussels with cold
water and let them sit while you ready the rest of the ingredients. Just before you’re ready to cook the mussels, drain them again.2. Roast the red pepper on a gas burner or under a close broiler, turning the pepper as necessary to blister the skin on all sides. Put the charred pepper in a bowl and cover; let it steam for a few minutes and then uncover the bowl to let the pepper cool. Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, rub off the skin, remove the stem and seeds and cut the flesh into short strips. Reserve.3. Put a heavy, medium-sized pot over medium-high flame. Once the pan is hot, pour in the 1T. of olive oil4. When the oil is rippling, add the onion and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is soft.
5. Add the wine and the drained mussels and cover the pot, increasing the heat to high. Cook the mussels, shaking the pot often, or stirring them once or twice, until the shells have opened and the mussels are firm but not overcooked, 4-5 minutes.
6. With a slotted spoon or a Chinese skimmer, remove the mussels to a bowl to cool a bit. Return the pot to the stove, lower the heat to medium-low and reduce the cooking liquid to a syrup. Reserve.
7. When the mussels are cool enough to handle but still warm, remove and discard the shells, putting the meat into a medium-sized bowl. Add the reserved peppers and cooking liquid, making sure to avoid any grit in the latter.
8. Stir in the lemon zest, several grindings of black pepper, salt, cayenne, garlic, lemon juice, oregano and ¼ c. olive oil.
9. Stir in the chorizo. Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice.
10. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flavors to marry.
Serve at room temperature with toothpicks and slices of baguette or on small plates.