by Chef Jeff Cruff
Matunuck Oyster Bar
Serves 4 as a main course
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped garlic (1 whole clove to rub toasted bread)
1 cup minced white onion
½ cup minced celery
1 cup dry red wine
1 bunch fresh thyme
½ cup rough chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cup tomato passata
4 cups clam juice/stock
½ t red chili flakes (or more if you prefer)
½ t toasted fennel seeds
3 lbs. American Mussel Harvesters Mussels (rinsed and cleaned)
8 slices Italian bread or and nice bread you prefer
1. Saute the minced garlic in the olive oil for approx. 1 min in a large stock pot, add celery, onion fennel seed, chili flakes and thyme. Continue to saute for 4-5 min. on a medium flame until the celery begins to soften and the onions are translucent.
2. Add the red wine and raise the flame until the mixture begins reduce to medium and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the tomato passata, clam juice or stock, return to a simmer and cook approx. 1 hour over medium heat.
4. Remove the bundle of thyme.
5. At this point the base of the stew is done and can be refrigerated for up to a week if cooled and stored properly.
6. To serve the stew, return to a flame and bring to a heavy simmer (just before boiling) and add the mussels. Cook the stew just long enough for the mussels to open, they will cook very quickly. Be sure the pot you use will be large enough to hold all the mussels.
7. Serve immediately in a large serving bowl with toasted sliced bread. Rub the bread with a raw garlic clove. Top with chopped parsley. If you choose you can serve over your favorite pasta.
You can add or adjust the seafood in this dish to any variety you choose. At the Matunuck Oyster Bar we serve Cacciucco with mussels, lobster, octopus, prawns and calamari. This can become tricky depending on the seafood you add. Be careful to add the seafood in order of how long it takes to cook. When using octopus, we will add it at the same time as the wine and allow it to cook for the entire process so as to tenderize the meat. Something like calamari should be added at the end, like mussels, due to the short cooking time these varieties require.