His trans-continental cuisine at Bossanova Restaurant & Martini Lounge has given him the opportunity to create dishes like Tequila Lime Mussels, which satisfy his taste for richly flavored seafood with a bit of kick. His take on traditional steamed mussels adds the bite of tequila to the usual white wine, while a heaping dose of sweet and hot puréed peppers give the dish a piquant finish, all balanced with a squeeze of lime.
Putnam uses frozen mussels because of the lack of consistency in fresh mussels shipped to the Midwest. Use the best-quality mussels you can find.
While the salty bites of tender mussels are the star of the dish, it's really about the richly concentrated broth they're cooked in. "When we first started serving these we gave people two pieces of bread. Now we're up to six because people kept ordering extra. I'm sure we'll be up to eight soon. It's all about the broth."
Or skip the bread and slurp the buttery, complex broth directly from the mussel's shells.
Tequila Lime Mussels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon puréed roasted red pepper with habenero pepper to taste
1 1/4 cup clam broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup gold tequila
1 pound frozen mussels
2 pats butter
juice from 1/2 lime
1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil to high heat. Sweat the onions, then add garlic and pepper purée, being careful to not inhale the steam if using habenero pepper.
2. Add broth, wine and tequila and simmer until reduced by half or more.
3. Add mussels, stirring occasionally to incorporate into broth. Simmer until mussel shells open. Add butter, stirring to incorporate.
4. Remove from heat and add lime juice. Place mussels and their cooking juice in a large bowl. Serve with toasted French bread.