Serve these Spanish mussels as a part of a Spanish tapas-inspired evening…or just enjoy them on their own. This recipe is part of an entire meal of fabulous (aphrodisiac) appetizers for a date-night dinner. But I like to think each one also stands alone as an easy dinner dish. These simply steamed mussels make a great choice for healthy food fast on a night when you’re in a hurry.
What makes this a Spanish mussels recipe?
This dish’s origins are quite humble. In Galicia, in Spain’s rugged northwest, mussels are common food. And a sailor’s sauce, (also known as mussels seaman style), refers to the quick and simple sauce the fishermen’s wives would prepare, usually with white wine and diced tomato along with the liquid the mussels release into the broth. In other words, this mussels recipe is really just a simple, steamed mussel preparation. But what makes it “Spanish-style” is the collection of flavorings.
Saffron, one of the world’s most luxurious ingredients as well as one of the most noted aphrodisiacs of the culinary world, is a prominent flavor in Spanish cuisine. In this recipe, it adds a golden glow and slightly savory quality to the broth, not to mention elevating the flavor beyond a simple, peasant dish.
The yellow kiss of saffron and flavors like oregano, garlic, lemon and dry white wine adds complexity with traditional Spanish ingredients to this simple, Spanish mussels tapas recipe.
How to prep mussels for cooking
If you’ve never cooked with mussels, there’s a little you need to know about the prep. Mussels have what are called “beards.” The beard is a bunch of hairy fibers that sprout from the shell.
To debeard, grab the bunch firmly and pull toward the hinge of the shell. After the mussels are debearded, put them in a colander in the sink under cool water and scrub lightly with your hands. Remove any sand or other debris. That’s all you have to do to prep mussels for a seductive mussels tapas.
Are frozen mussels good?
If you can’t find fresh mussels, you might be thinking about making this easy seafood recipe with frozen mussels. Frozen mussels hold their shape surprisingly well. The texture is almost like that of fresh mussels.
However before they are frozen, the mussels are partially cooked. This changes the timing of the cooking. They also may hold water, which will dilute the sauce. So although you could use frozen mussels for this seafood tapas recipe, I don’t recommend it.
What goes with mussels for dinner?
Although this recipe was written as part of a tapas dinner, (I’ve added links to the additional tapas recipe below), you can serve these mussels on their own. Just add a simple green salad and some crusty bread for a complete meal. (The bread is key. As far as I’m concerned, you cannot serve any steamed mussels recipe without fresh or grilled bread to soak up the rich, salty broth flavored with the essence of the sea.)
Spanish Style Mussels in Sailor’s Sauce
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 small onion chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/2 jalapeno ribs and seeds removed, minced
- 1 tomato-peeled seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano lightly crumbled
- small pinch of saffron lightly crumbled
- 1 tsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 lb mussels scrubbed and debearded
- 1/2 cup bottled clam juice
- 1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Crusty country bread for serving
- In a large, heavy stockpot, heat the olive oil.
- Add the onion, garlic and jalapeño and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the tomato, oregano and saffron and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
- Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir it in. Add the wine and mussels, cover the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the fish stock, parsley and lemon juice and cook over high heat, stirring, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Transfer the mussels and their sauce to deep bowls. Serve at once with crusty bread to soak up the sauce.
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View more of Diane’s aphrodisiac tapas recipes
Diane Brown is the author of The Seduction Cookbook. If you like this recipe, get the book!
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