Oh my god these are good mussels…

After speculating on Frank Sinatra’s inclination toward clams in my recent Linguini Vongole post, I decided I had to know whether Frank was in fact a clams fan. I know … I said I didn’t want to know — just didn’t want to burst my “Sinatra food bubble” — but I decided life is too short to live in fear ;-).

While rooting around the aether-webs in pursuit of Frank’s food proclivities I discovered Sal Scognamillo’s Patsy’s Cookbook — an amazing collection of great southern Italian recipes and insightful anecdotes from the landmark NYC restaurant started by his grandfather Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo in 1944.

Sal is the current chef at Patsy’s Restaurant and his cookbook is chock full of stories about Frank and his contemporaries … their antics back in the day AND their favorite Patsy’s dishes! This is a cookbook to be sure, but I found myself consuming it like a novel and went cover to cover in a about a day.

Oh, and Frank LOVED him some clams! It was rumored that Sinatra would take down up to three orders of Patsy’s “Clams Posillipo” (littlenecks steamed off in a fragrant basil infused tomato sauce) at a sitting. Could this be the winner “red sauce” clams recipe I’ve been chasing lo these many years?

Maybe, but that will have to wait for the clams to “return” in the fall. Last night, it was all about…

Patsy’s Mussels Arreganata…

I actually didn’t set out to have a Patsy’s mussel fest … the original plan was to test drive Sal’s arreganata recipe as a starter and then move on to a nice braised lamb shoulder chop dish for the main course. But the Rat Pack, Whole Foods and Patsy’s conspired to tee up a “mussel mania” saturday night!

Whole Foods did their part by only offering mussels in convenient ~2 1/2 lb. bags, Frank, Sammy and Dean set the perfect mood … and Patsy’s contributed with an irresistibly great tasting dish.

Even with “die back” I ended up with north of 40 beautiful small/medium sized mussels. We cooked them off and stuffed them with Patsy’s simple but incredibly tasty breadcrumb mixture … with the sweet aromatic smell wafting out of the broiler I knew there was no way I was throwing out any of these awesome mussels!

We put the lamb chops back in the fridge for Sunday (tonight – yum!), stoked up on our white wine, grabbed some lemon wedges and sat down to some of the best mussels I’ve ever eaten. Simple flavors, perfectly balanced … OMG this is good stuff.

Patsy’s recipe night…

My first foray into Pasquale, Joe and Sal’s recipe stash has me thinking I need to make cooking Patsy’s Cookbook fare a regular affair. I’m still thinking it through but it might be that we meet here most Sunday mornings to chat about the great Patsy’s recipe explored the night before.

But don’t wait on me; find some mussels, put on some classic Sinatra tunes and make this dish!

Patsy's Mussels Arreganata...
The best broiled mussel dish I've ever eaten. Elegantly simple and tasty. Pair with a crisp Sicilian white wine and prepare to enjoy some lemony good mussels!
  • 24 mussels scrubbed and de-bearded
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (see note)
  • olive oil to taste
  • lemon wedges
  1. Mix up the seasoned breadcrumbs*
  2. Preheat broiler.
  3. Place the mussels in a large saucepan and not quite cover them with cold water. Cover the pan and bring the mussels to a boil over high heat and cook until they open. Start checking after 2-3 minutes (especially if smaller sized mussels).
  4. Transfer mussels to a colander and rinse gently with cold water until they are cool enough to handle (should just be a few seconds).
  5. Shuck the mussels, preserving half the shells. Separate the shells into halves and place a mussel meat into each half-shell. Season with pepper
  6. Spoon the bread crumb mixture into each shell -- compacting the mixture a bit and smoothing with the back of a spoon. Arrange the shells on a sheet pan and drizzle lightly with the olive oil.
  7. Broil until bread crumbs are light golden brown (2-3 minutes) turning the pan as needed for even browning.
  8. Remove; serve immediately with lemon wedges (and wine!).
* Patsy's Seasoned Bread Crumbs combine ~ ½ baguette of bread crumbs with a clove of minced garlic, a pinch of oregano, 2 TB Reggiano, ¼ cup minced parsley, ~ 3 TB olive oil added gradually and salt and pepper to taste. I tweaked the Patsy's bread crumbs a bit ... I had about 2½ cups of crumbs so I dialed up the garlic to 2 cloves and doubled down on the oregano to compensate for what I believe was more crumbs that the recipe expected. I kept the other ingredient measures about the same ... it just looked right. I also added a scant few red pepper flakes -- just a few though ... just wanted a hint of heat, but didn't want to whack the mussels. I'm not going to tell you how to eat your mussels, but I will suggest that these guys are really best when you scrape them off the shell with your teeth ... during the mussel feeding frenzy, I became pretty adept at it. My technique is to put the curved side of the shell in your mouth and drop your teeth down just inside the straight side and scrap "the goods" into your mouth ... chew, enjoy a sip of wine ... repeat!