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Chef Matt Gordon’s Steamed Baja Mussels with Smoked Tomato Butter

by Nannette Eaton on January 28, 2013

Last week as I was creating the commentary of the Witness Tree Pinot Gris, I knew it would pair perfectly with the Steamed Baja Mussels with Smoked Tomato Butter that I often order at Solace & the Moonlight Lounge, but the internet didn’t provide a facsimile recipe to link to share with you. I published anyway, as deadlines are just that. The next day, I tweeted to Chef Matt Gordon, owner of Urban Solace Restaurant, in North Park, San Diego, and the new Solace & the Moonlight Lounge, in my little beach town of Encinitas, California, teasing him to provide his trade secrets to share with you. Amazingly, he immediately sent over the recipe. Here’s the deal: when you make this, you have to invite me over. You cook, I’ll bring the wine!

Solace at Moologht Beach Mussels with Smoked Tomato Butter

Smoked Tomato Butter

halved roma tomatoes (or canned diced tomato in juice (drained)
large yellow onion, julienned
melted butter for sautéing
cloves roasted garlic
white wine
fresh ground black pepper
lemon juice (squeeze a lemon!)
unsalted butter, cut into 1” chunks

Purchase a bag of hickory or mesquite woodchips.
Fashion a small tray (about 8 by 8 inches out of aluminum foil) and place in your barbecue directly on the source of flame.
Put 1 cup of wood chips on this (some people soak the wood chips first to let them smolder longer. Do it if you feel like it, don’t if you don’t).
Light the grill and let wood chips begin to smoke.
Place tomatoes in a perforated pan or strainer basket and place in grill.
Turn the fire off on the grill and let tomatoes smoke for 15 minutes.
Relight the barbecue one or two more times and let it fill with smoke.
Smoke for a total of 30-45 minutes.
Don’t leave the heat on for too long each time.
The tomatoes should take on a slightly smoky look and odor.

Meanwhile, on stove, sauté the onion and garlic until lightly caramelized.
Deglaze with the white wine and let the wine reduce by about half.
Add the tomatoes, let simmer for five minutes add all remaining ingredients, except the butter.
Remove from stove and place in a container large enough to puree with a hand blender or standard blender.
Blend until smooth add the butter slowly while pureeing until it is a smooth sauce.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


olive oil
fresh herbs
white wine
fresh ground pepper

Heat a large sauté pan and add 1 Tbs olive oil.
Add 12 to 16 mussels, 1 Tbs garlic, 1 Tbs shallot and 1 Tbs chopped fresh herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Sauté for 2 minutes and deglaze with 3 oz white wine.
Add enough tomato butter to come about halfway up the mussel shells and cover.
Steam on low heat until all the mussels have just opened.
Add a little fresh cold butter to smooth it all out and serve!

Huge thank you to Chef Matt Gordon, owner of Urban Solace Restaurant, in North Park, San Diego, and Solace & the Moonlight Lounge, Encinitas, California for sharing his lifework.

Photo: EatonAlive ©2012