Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mussels with Chorizo, Chili, & Bay - a Recipe

Catalonia is a region of extremes. It dominates the northeastern coast of Spain, but its land juts, seemingly straight out of the Mediterranean in places, to heights of 9800 feet above sea level.

The Empordà is the comarca or county that frames the northeastern tip of Catalonia, and in legend, this land was born as the progeny of a shepherd and his siren bride. The cuisine of the area certainly reflects such a union.

Mar i muntanya
(sea and mountain) is the region’s expression for traditional local recipes that combine seafood with meat, poultry, or game. The pairing can be as subtle as fish stew with snails, or it can become as intense as a squid ink paella laced with cured pork.

It’s a tradition I happily adopt – here in an autumnal dish of spicy mussels. The shellfish’s fresh sweetness is enhanced by the smoky, paprika-redolent, dry chorizo sausage. And the whole is steamed in a garlicky bay broth – heavenly for dipping if you grill or toast some bread for the occasion. We pile the toasts high with a plump mussel, some pungent chorizo, and the savory vegetables for one decadent, all-encompassing bite.

I serve these rustic mussels though the autumn and into the winter, both as crowd-pleasing tapas, and as a cozy supper all on their own. Once scallions are out of season – usually sometime before November around here – I just substitute a thinly sliced, medium yellow onion.

Serves 8 as a tapa or 2 for supper

2 lbs fresh mussels
extra virgin olive oil
4 scallions, whites and greens sliced thinly
kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 oz. dry chorizo, sliced thinly and then cut into slivers
1 large red chili pepper, sliced thinly (you should remove the seeds if you’re sensitive to heat)
1 bay leaf (fresh if possible)
1 cup dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
handful fresh parsley leaves

Clean and debeard the mussels under cold running water. Any that don’t close when rapped with your knuckles should be discarded. Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan with a lid over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the scallion whites. Sprinkle with kosher salt and sizzle, stirring occasionally, until just transparent. Add the garlic, chorizo, and sliced chili and sauté one minute more until fragrant. Add the scallion greens, the bay leaf and the white wine, and season with black pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to the boil.

Stir in the mussels, clamp on the lid, and cook for 2 to 5 minutes until the shells have opened. Drizzle with the lemon juice and tear in the parsley. Serve immediately – there is no substitute for a freshly opened mussel – and be sure not to eat any mussels that haven’t opened during cooking.


Gloria said...

I like so this recipe Figs Olives because I love mussels, and sound delicious.xx Gloria

Jan said...

What a beautiful legend about the shepherd and the siren! Gorgeous mussels too.

Anh said...

Great way to cook seafood! I love it!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Gloria, thank you! I love them too! They've been one of my favorites since I was a very small child.

Jan, thanks! I love the story too - such a beautiful creation myth.

Anh, thank you! I do think that seafood with a little smokiness from chorizo can be a real treat!

tribecachef said...

Love the sweet mussel flesh with the spice of the sausage - great combination.

Cynthia said...

I can't wait for the day that I can have this dish. We don't get fresh seasfood such as mussels in these parts :(

winedeb said...

Mussels are a favorite around our house also. We usually have them during the cooler season down here as we love to soak up crusty bread with the juices. I have not added any sausage to mine yet. Sounds like a great addition!
Nothing like a big bowl of steaming mussels, fresh crusty bread, a good bottle (or 2) of wine and a table surrounded by good friends!

Valli said...

I will have to check to see if I can find the dried chorizo sausage in our local Italian grocers. They seem to have everything!! The mussel dish sounds exquisite!!!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Tribecachef, thank you! It's a combination I love too.

Cynthia, yes, the water's unfortunately too warm down there! Though heavenly to swim in and great for conch! Do you get much lobster down there? We have lovely ones in he Bahamas. I bet you could try the mar i muntanya thing with something that incorporates conch and bacon or some such. Sounds delicious!

Winedeb, they're great for company aren't they! Interactive when placed in one big bowl in the center of the table.

Valli, thanks so much! Let me know if you have trouble finding it - I can recommend something on line if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

mmm can I come over for dinner tonight? Delicious.

Peter M said...

Very nice...chorizo, bay and mussels...I must try this combo!

maninas: food matters said...

Bookmarked it! Love the idea!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Maninas, thank you! I'm so glad the mussels appeal - let me know if you have the chance to make them.

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