This is an interesting dish to make because of the combination of two starches. Both absorb the flavors of the mussels and tomatoes, but in different ways. The potatoes absorb the tomato flavor and acidity, while the rice is all about the mussel juice. Mussels are used traditionally in Bari, Puglia. You could use clams or shrimp in this dish, but they do tend to get tough when overcooked, so add the shrimp -toward the end of cooking. I also sometimes add chopped zucchini to the rice layer.
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 5 cups), with their juices
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled, sliced ¼ inch thick
Soak the rice in water to cover for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large (12-inch) tiella- or paella-type pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic. Once the garlic is sizzling, add the mussels, cover, and cook until they just begin to open. Uncover, and let the mussels cook slightly, then remove them from shells. Strain and reserve the cooking juices (about 1 cup).
In a bowl, toss together the scallions, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the mussel meat. Drain the rice, and add it to the bowl. In another bowl, toss together the potatoes, the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and remaining teaspoon of salt.
In the same tiella pan, layer half of the potatoes, half of the tomato mixture, the other half of the potatoes, and the remaining tomatoes. Pour over this the mussel-cooking liquid. Cover, and bake 30 minutes, until rice is almost tender. Uncover, and bake until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes more.