OK. So you can’t pronounce it. But that’s ok. It’s better eaten than pronounced anyway. “Arrabbiata” literally means “angry.” It won’t bite you though… if you know how to cook it right. It will, however, make you sweat a little. This traditional mariner’s dish is a blank red sauce that sailors (mariners) would take to sea with them and add seafood and preserved food stores to as it went along. It was really all about using up what seafood you had on hand. During the cold New Hampshire winter at Stone Farm (when nobody really wants to go out in the snow to drive to the store), spicy and warm is what’s on the menu tonight.
You start off by cleaning your mussels. Scrub them up in cold water, rolling them around in your hands, banging and scrubbing against each other, and yanking off the beards (yes, mussels have beards…tear them off), and wiping off any barnacles. Discard broken or open mussels, keep the good ones in a bowl in the fridge until it’s time to cook them.
Here’s your mise en place: garlic (some set aside on the left for garlic bread), mushrooms of your liking, diced jalapenos, the guts of one jalapeno (for heat), diced onion, crushed red pepper and chopped bacon (or salt pork…cappicola or other preserved Italian meats will also suit just fine). Crushed tomatoes and a tablespoon of brown sugar round out the mise, and about 5 ounces of barolo or chianti would also be appropriate (I just don’t have any kicking around tonight).
Pop open a couple of nice big quahogs (those are big clams for those of you that aren’t from New England) and get all the meat out and chopped up. You can save the juice, or “liquor”, from the clams and put it in the sauce later.
Be careful opening up the clam. Hold the back of the clam with your right thumb while pressing the knife into the seam. Be careful when forcing a knife at yourself. This can require a bit of force and can take some practice. I’ve whacked myself open as recently as 3 year ago opening clams, and I’ve opened tens of thousands of them.
Getting olive oil hot in a deep cast iron skillet, just shy of the smoking point.
Next, you add the onion, garlic, bacon, and crushed red pepper.
When those are about half cooked, shove them aside and make a spot for the diced jalapenos.
Time to chop up the quahogs.
Mix up the jalapenos with the rest of the ingredients and get them nice and hot, then roll in the mushrooms.
Get the mushrooms sauteeing with the rest of the goodies. You can see the minced garlic is starting to get toasty here.
Empty the pan onto a plate and set it aside. Add more olive oil and get it hot again. Add some chunked up fish of your choice. I used swai fillets tonight because they were on sale and looked nice. Some grocery stores will be able to get you “junk fish”, which is a mixture of pieces that weren’t pretty enough for the retail window and usually consist of swordfish, haddock, broken scallops, and whatever else they have laying around. Such a thing is usually a huge bang for the buck and perfect for this job.
Lay your mussels down across the top of the sauteeing fish and put a lid on it for about 3 minutes, at which point you should probably start smelling the steam coming off the mussels.
The mussels are just about finished and the fish is done.
Now toss all the other goodies that you removed from the pan back into it.
It’s starting to get pretty epic now. This is where you’d throw in your chianti or barolo if you had it, and let it cook off for about a minute.
In goes the crushed tomatoes, some romano cheese, and about a tablespoon of brown sugar.
Cook it for just another minute or two, to get the new flavors incorporated and the sugar dissolved into the sauce (sugar kills any tartness), and serve it up with some garlic bread.