Mussels with Smoky Bacon, Lime, and Cilantro

Testing notes for this recipe start with one word — Killer!

Serves 4

1/4 pound thick-sliced lean smoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 large jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced into rings, seeds removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or one 14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons ketchup
3 1/2 pounds medium mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Crusty bread, for serving (Well.... we all know what bread to serve with this! LOL. My girlfriends went ga, ga over the bread and sauce)

Cook bacon in a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add shallots and jalapeño, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and ketchup and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.

Increase heat to high and add mussels. Cover and cook, shaking pan a few times until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon transfer the mussels to four large serving bowls. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro and butter. Ladle the sauce over the mussels and serve at once with the bread.

Look for thick cut good quality bacon. It makes a difference. They used Niman Ranch, I used Neuske's applewood smoked bacon

For the freshest mussels, don't debeard until immediately before you plan to cook them. Grab the wiry threads (or beards) and yank them off or cut off with a small knife. Some farm raised mussels will have only the thinnest beards, which take no force at all to remove.

If you don't have a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, use a stainless steel or other nonreactive pot with a tight cover. A large frying pan would work.

Pamilyn note....This makes a lot of mussels but they are so good they were all gone.

Wolvie note: oh yeah - I can second this recipe. We love it!

Amy (Austin, TX) note: We had this for dinner last night and it was OUTSTANDING! The sauce is TDF. Two of us ate 4 people's worth of sauce. I only cooked about 1 1/2 pounds of mussels for the full amount of sauce. And NYT No Knead Bread. What a great dinner. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

The Best American Recipes, 2003-2004, by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens
Source: Food and Wine, Chef Michael Romano (Union Square Cafe, NYC)