Tag Archives: mussels

Tapas 2: The Best Mussels EVER (party snacks to make ahead!)

18 Dec

Mejillones a la vinagreta must be made the night before and then assembled just before serving. Enlist the help of your guests – those lovely kitchen elves who want to keep busy while watching you cook.

I love seafood and I especially love mussels. And I especially, especially love mussel dishes that force people to use their hands and slurp – there is no better ice breaker than perilous food, particularly if eaten standing up while simultaneously holding a beverage. Conversation among complete strangers is virtually guaranteed.

Also, mussels are simple. You just need to pull them out of the pot as soon as they open (so babysitting the cooking is required on this one for about ten minutes) so they don’t get chewy. This means TONGS are crucial (although I have been known to use my fingers to pluck them out in extremis).

These mussels are inspired by Spanish cuisine maven Penelope Casas. You make them the night before and then dish them into the reserved shells before serving. Crusty bread for dipping is critical.

Mussels (Mejillones) a la Vinagreta

1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

heaping Tbs small capers

2 Tbsp minced red onion

1 Tbs minced pimiento (I prefer roasted red peppers, but I inadvertently bought sweet red peppers in a jar and the resulting tanginess worked out just fine)

1 Tbs minced parsley

pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper

2-4 lbs mussels in their shells*

1 slice lemon

Whisk the oil and vinegar together, then add the capers, onion, peppers, parsley, salt and pepper. Put the mix into a large freezer bag (if you need this dish to be portable)

Boil one cup of water in a big pot with the lemon slice. Add the mussels and bring to a boil, covered. Pluck out the mussels when they open (waiting until the meat separates completely from the shell into a little sausage shape and then pulling out immediately) and put in a separate bowl to cool. Discard any mussels that do not open after ten minutes. Remove the mussel meat and put into plastic bag with the seasonings and refrigerate.

Save half the mussels shells and clean well (this is the tedious part; make sure you have good music on). Put in a plastic bag and refrigerate.

To serve the next day, arrange shells on an attractive and large platter and put one mussel in each. Spoon the remaining seasoning over each.

Serve with a dry sparkling white (like Spanish cava or prosecco – your more economical options) or a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, or if you are lucky/geographically able, a Long Island sauvignon blanc from Paumanok or Jamesport Vineyards.

*NB: Mussels should be bought the day of or the day before making. Buy them in net bags (not wrapped in plastic) from a reputable vendor who moves a lot of product and SNIFF THEM! If they smell faintly briny and sweet, they are good. If they smell funky or of ammonia or anything that makes you wonder, then don’t buy them! Do not be afraid to ask for a different bag after sniffing; a fishmonger will only respect you the more for knowing your shellfish.

At home, store in a nonreactive bowl in the fridge, covered with a damp towel.

These days mussels from stores are pretty clean. You must still wash them in cold water and tug out any weirdy-beardies sticking out from the shell. While you wash, discard any mussels that are cracked or are open and won’t close back up if pressed together.

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