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
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.