A traditional seafood feast for the festive season may seem prohibitively expensive this year, but the good news is that you can eschew the high prices charged for lobster, crab, and scallops, and still make a wonderful celebratory meal for your friends and family.
When you visit your local market this holiday, look for sustainable and delicious options. Choose from among fresh squid, mussels, and shrimp. Clams are also a good option. This recipe serves a generous six, who will dine sumptuously on this most magnificent of dishes.
Simmering the mussels in a mixture of white wine and sherry makes a delicious broth to form the base of this dish. Fresh squid is easy to clean and is the best option to add extra flavor to the sauce. If you substitute frozen squid, defrost in the fridge the night before. Flash frying the shrimp and squid makes them extra tasty and scraping up the resulting browned bits on the bottom of the pan thickens and enhance the sauce. This dish is best served straight from the pan that it is cooked in.
1.5 lbs. mussels
2-3 medium squid
¾ lb. large shrimp
1 cup white wine
¼ cup dry sherry
2 bay leaves
Soak the mussels in cold water for a half hour, remove the beards and discard any that are empty or open.
Place the white wine, sherry and bay leaves in a large pan and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels, place the lid on the pan and cook at a simmer for 5 minutes until all the shells are open.
Remove mussels to a bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any that are still closed. Strain and reserve the mussel cooking broth. Cool the mussels, remove from the shells, reserving 6 to 8 large intact ones for garnish. If you are not using immediately, transfer the mussels to the fridge as soon as they are cool.
Clean the squid (you can ask the fishmonger to do this for you). Slice the squid into ¼ rings. Set aside. Peel and de-vein the shrimp and reserve six whole with the tails on. Cut the remainder into thirds.
Half a white onion, finely diced
Two cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups plum tomatoes, canned or fresh, pureed
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the white onion, with a generous pinch of salt. Cook gently over low heat for three or four minutes until the onion softens. Do not allow it to brown. Add chili flakes or Aleppo pepper, paprika, smoked paprika and tomato puree. Mix thoroughly with the onions and continue to cook on low for one minute, then add the tomatoes, heat over medium until it starts to bubble, and then simmer for about eight minutes.
While the tomato sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of water to boil, adding a generous amount of salt. Add the linguine to the pan and cook at a steady boil until the pasta is cooked to your taste (I like it a little al dente as it will cook a bit more in the sauce). Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water in case the sauce needs thinning. Drain the linguine and set aside.
Cooking the Seafood & Completing the Dish
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
A handful of parsley sprigs
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Fine sea salt & fresh black pepper
Spread one cup all-purpose flour and ½ tsp. fine sea salt on a plate. Heat 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Coat the squid pieces lightly with the seasoned flour and flash cook in the oil for 30 seconds on each side, until lightly golden but not browned. Remove to a plate. Repeat the same process for the whole and chopped shrimp and set aside.
Carefully pour the mussel white wine cooking broth into the shrimp skillet and stir thoroughly, scraping all the brown pieces off the bottom of the pan. Let that simmer gently for about five minutes before adding the tomato sauce and simmering for a further two to three minutes. Add the shrimp and calamari. Simmer gently for three minutes. Add the mussels and heat them through for a minute before adding linguine and tossing thoroughly to coat with the mixture. The mixture should be very juicy. Add a little extra pasta water if it seems dry.
Mix in two tablespoons finely chopped parsley and a few grinds of fresh black pepper, garnish with the reserved mussels in shells, a few sprigs of parsley and drizzle over a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil. Serve straight from the pan with good crusty bread and a crisp green salad.