IT’S MUSSEL SEASON! Moule Espanol (or mussels, chorizo, and fennel in a tomato, wine, cream sauce)

I love mussels. They’re cheap, easy (once you know what to do), quick, and delicious. Mussels are best in the US when the month has an “R” in it and the nearer the “R” is to the end of the month (September, October, etc.), the better. This recipe is the very best way I have ever had mussels.





Because mussels MUST be alive when you cook them, I buy them on the day that I will serve them. The mussels I get are cultivated, so they aren’t too sandy and only a few have “beards.” The beard is a stringy growth that keeps the mussels connected to the colony.  When you buy your mussels, verify the “sell by” date. Also, do not buy mussels if there are a lot of broken shells (one or two in the bag is OK). Oh, and if some are open, tap the shell with your fingernail – it should close (meaning it’s alive). If there are a lot of open mussels that do NOT close, then do not buy them. Most importantly, it is about smell. If the smell is too fishy (you can smell them from, say 2 feet away or arms length), then do NOT buy them. This means that the mussels that won’t close have been dead for quite some time. My experience is that smelly mussels will ruin the whole batch.




Once you get the mussels home, take them out of the plastic bag. The plastic bag will suffocate them. I soak them in a pot of COLD water with some salt and about ¼ cup of flour. I learned this flour tip from Julia Child. The theory is that they will eat the flour and expel any sand that might be inside. Do NOT soak the mussels for more than say, four hours. Mussels live in salt water, so the fresh water will eventually kill them. (Well, there are freshwater mussels, but they’re considered inedible).


When you’re ready to cook them, sort, clean, and debeard them. The video below explains this. Usually, I clean and debeard before I soak them (because if I’m entertaining, I can actually entertain instead of working in the kitchen). But some say that the mussel “might” die after you debeard them. While I haven’t had too many bad mussels after I’ve cooked them (bad = closed after cooking), you decide how you want to do this. Oh, and although the video doesn’t explain this, I wash the mussels under cold water and use a brush, if necessary, to clean the outside of the shell to remove any sand/debris/barnacles.


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Feeds 2 for dinner or 4 for appetizer.




NOTE: I originally got this recipe from Emeril, but I have modified it a bit.


* 6-8 ounces chorizo, removed from casings and chopped/crumbled. I get my chorizo from a local butcher who makes excellent sausages. It’s also leaner and doesn’t come in casings.

* 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

* Finely chopped shallots – about 2 or 3.

* 1 cup roughly chopped fennel – I use ½ of a fennel bulb

* Salt to taste – about ½ tsp?

* Freshly ground black pepper to taste – Totally depends on how spicy the chorizo is and how spicy everyone likes their food

* 1 Tbsp minced garlic - 2-3 cloves

* ½ can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (if you want more tomato-y flavor, use the whole can. But keep in mind that you will probably have too much sauce)

* 1 cup dry white wine

* ¼ cup heavy cream

* 2-3 Tbsp chopped parsley leaves

* 2-3 pounds fresh mussels (1 bag), well scrubbed and debearded

* A crusty bread, such as French Bread (to dip in the yummy sauce)




In a dutch oven, cook the chorizo until brown over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of fat from the pan. Because the chorizo I get is so lean, I usually need to add a little olive oil to get a Tbsp.
Add the butter and when the foam begins to subside, add the shallots, fennel, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Scrape any of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (this is flavor). Add the wine, cream, and parsley, and bring to a boil. Make sure this is a good boil because the mussels will cool this concoction down when you toss them in.


Add the mussels, cover, and cook until the shells have opened, about 4 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook. Mussels aren’t as tricky as clams, but they can be overcooked.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sausage. Discard any shells that do not open. Transfer to a big shallow bowl and serve immediately with the crusty bread for dipping.




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Replies to This Discussion

Here's the video:

Looks amazing! Thanks sooo much!

This sounds delicious!


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