Prince Edward Island Mussels In Guinness Stout Brothwith Soy Sauce, Black Olives, Onions, over Squid Ink Spaghetti
I USUALLY DON'T LIKE TO hold on to recipe ideas in my head for too long; so many have gotten lost in the clutter and excitement of creating and executing newer ones. And having already used a Top Chef-inspired Quickfire Challenge to render a meal where every food element was white (see White On Rice), I ended its accompanying post with the supposition of what to cook for a meal where all the ingredients were black in color.
One of my readers suggested squid ink pasta, which was a decent enough idea that, in theory, I knew I would prefer to work with. I was convinced to do so when I came across some artisinal pasta boxes in my local supermarket aisle that featured uniquely flavored—and colored—pastas.
I, at the time, used a Cremini mushroom (brown) taglialini (grooved fettucini) for a wonderful dish that featured salmon and included pastachios, leaving behind boxes of pasta that were flavored with salmon (pink),basil, (dark green), lemon (bright yellow), and, yes, squid ink (black, natch).
Having to wait a few extra days from when I was ready to cook my "Back in Black" repast (my nearby Food Emporium was, initially, out of stock of the squid ink pasta, so I had to wait until I could find another supermarket that carried it), I was finally able to get my hands on the pasta and was excited to "get cooking"!
Although the edible parts of mussels aren't black, the shells of Prince Edward mussels are—the mussel color would offer great visual contrast—accenting the black even more!—so I bought a 2 lb. bag of them as well, along with some black olives.
Once I got home, I started the pasta prep while sautéing some chopped onion in some butter in the bottom of a big pot, letting them cook until some parts were near burnt. I then deglazed the bottom of the pot with a 16 oz. bottle of Guinness Stout (yay!). As I proceeded to bring that to a boil, I added a half a cup each of soy sauce and fish sauce, salt and fresh cracked pepper.
I let the liquid boil for a couple of minutes while stirring, letting much of the alcohol burn off, before I dropped in the full bag of mussels, then the small can of black olives on top. I tossed the mussels once and briefly in the liquid, then covered tight with a lid and let it resume and continue boiling for 3 minutes.
I arranged the cooked al dente pasta on the only black plate I have, spooning some of the Guinness broth on top. I arranged several mussels and olives on top of the pasta, spooning some black lumpfish caviar on top of the center mussel. Then, in a separate black bowl, I ladel some more mussels and olives in a pool of the broth.
I love it when I surprise even myself! I had cooked with Guinness before, for a sweet application (ice cream), with great success. This savory broth was a knockout winner. Earthy and having both bitter and sweet notes, the Guinness was amped up by the salty sweetness of the soy sauce, the subtle richness of flavors in the fish sauce, and the woodsy bursts of the bites of olive, all of them together working magic with the mussels without the risk of overwhelming them. The slight peppery hits from the few small fronds of wild arugula I mixed in with the pasta added a nice bit of character as well, not just in taste, but in color.
As great a success as this dish was, I feel I've fulfilled my personal "one color" challenge for the time being. Although if I do return to that well, I've got some post titles ready: Green With Envy; Red-Faced; Out Of The Blue; Purple Rain...?! =)
Bun Apple Tea!
Prince Edward Island Mussels In Guinness Stout Broth with Soy Sauce, Black Olives, Onions, over Squid Ink Spaghetti